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Local bricks give Garver more soul

After more than four years, the Garver Feed Mill restoration is well underway, with the addition of over 70,000 bricks from the former French Battery building at Union Corners.

Photos courtesy Wayne Reckard, The Kubala Washatko Architects

From the pages of In Business magazine.

For more than four years, the Garver Feed Mill restoration project struggled to get off the ground on Madison’s near-east side, but since work at the site began in December it’s been full steam ahead. Aiding in the renovation work is the addition of over 70,000 bricks from the former French Battery building at Union Corners.

“At the start of the project, we didn’t know if we would be able to obtain the bricks from Union Corners,” notes Naomi Kroth, project manager and vice president of marketing for Bachmann Construction, the general contractor on the project. “We knew they were there, but they were being held by that developer for potential use on another project.”

Originally, Bachmann looked to source the historical brick it needed from a Chicago brick salvage yard, Kroth says, even making several trips down to the Windy City to inspect that supply, but the team at Bachmann always kept an eye on Union Corners just in case.

“In the end, it’s icing on the cake that those local bricks became available and will find a new home at Garver,” Kroth says. “The brick we might have gotten in Chicago would have been historically accurate, fired in the same era, and matching in color and character. However, using the Union Corners brick does all that while giving Garver’s restoration just a little more ‘soul,’ making the story of the building that much deeper.”

Many of the bricks earmarked for the Garver Feed Mill renovation feature street art, which will be preserved at its new home.

Bryant Moroder, a project manager for Baum Revision, the Chicago-based developer of the Garver Feed Mill project, says Garver’s location and historic use as a feed mill with significant economic impact provided inspiration to develop a meaningful project. “Our goal has been to create a value-added platform for the strong presences of food-based business that contribute significantly to the Madison economy.”

Baum has also been working with Garver tenants, as well as James Gubbins from Momentum Art Tech on Cottage Grove Road, to identify creative ways to incorporate street art into the project. Many of the bricks coming over from Union Corners feature graffiti and the developers want to maintain some of the artwork at Garver.

“We recognize and are trying to balance Garver’s place in the community as both a one-of-kind historic building and also a creative outlet for artists,” explains Moroder. “Taking inspiration from an affiliated project in Boise, Idaho — Freak Alley — we hope that there may be opportunities for a mural wall, signage, and street art within tenant spaces.”

Baum Revision is also repurposing old equipment and steel that has been harvested during the restoration. For example, the new main entry will be cladded with sheets of steel that had previously been used as bins to store grain at the building, Moroder notes. In a nod to its historic roots, the renovated Garver Feed Mill is being transformed into a production center for locally made food and drink, and will include an events space and other public amenities.

The Garver building is contiguous to Olbrich Botanical Gardens and will be the future home to several local businesses, including NessAlla Kombucha, Sitka Salmon, Underground Catering, and Calliope Ice Cream.

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