Demolition work has begun on the Boerner Building, 211 N. Franklin St., formerly the Lueptow Building, which had housed the Shoppes of Port Washington.
The work is the first step to bringing the 1910 building back to life, said architect Mike Ehrlich.
This summer Daniel Ewig, a Port native who now lives in New York, bought the store and house behind it with plans to remodel the building for retail and office space.
The project is still in the conceptual design phase but is moving quickly, Ehrlich said. The demolition work, expected to continue for two to three more weeks, is about halfway done.
Plans for construction will be ready for bidding in early December. Construction will continue through winter into summer. The owner hopes to have the project completely done by October 2013, Ehrlich said.
Original features and character preserved
Removal of the 1968 remodeling of the façade has exposed “spectacular” views of Lake Michigan from the interior, Ehrlich said.
“It’s so nice now with the daylight coming. The view is spectacular,” Ehrlich said. The only obstruction to the view is the Wilson House, which in his opinion, isn’t bad to look at.
Early indications are that much of the building's original features are intact. Demolition is uncovering tongue-in-groove ceilings, hardwood maple floors, other woodwork and original Cream City brick.
“He didn’t get rid of any of the character,” Ehrlich said.
Interior work involves taking down plaster and exposing the brick for an industrial modern look that will still retain the character of the building.
“Once we have everything take off, we’ll know what we’ve got.”
The condition of the building is a credit to former owner Merton Lueptow and his father, who had the building remodeled in the late 60’s, preserving the interior and exterior character of the building.
The future of the building
Conceptual plans call for a more open storefront with an inviting feel. There will be retail on first floor, possibly a restaurant, with offices on second floor for smaller companies and the third floor housing a larger business. Floor plans will allow tenants flexibility according to their needs.
Exterior work involves repairing the masonry, tuck-pointing and replacing windows, Ehrich said.
Remodeled alleys and parking
Plans also call for an inviting area behind the store, with green space and pedestrian walks. The house, which was in disrepair, was demolished. With the additional space, the area behind the store will be redone to include more parking and an entrance to the building. Ironically, Ehrlich’s redesign calls for the removal of a canopy that was one of his first projects out of school.
The alley to the north of the building will become a pedestrian walkway, connecting Franklin Street to the area behind the businesses.
History of the building
The building was built by the Boerner Bros. Department Store in 1910. The company was a thriving business, Ehrlich said, with two locations in Port and one in Cedarburg, until the Interurban Railroad came through.
The store closed in 1920 and the building was taken over by Badger Outwear until being bought by the Lueptow family in 1967.