In Fort Atkinson, a downtown revival rides on the back of a historic building
Excerpted from Wisconsin State Journal
By Barry Adams
Plans to revitalize the creamery building, energize the city’s downtown and fill the historic brick structure with employees are being realized.
Mike Herl, a Dane County-based real estate broker and developer, and Adel Salameh, who has owned the Verlo store in the building since 2004, purchased the Creamery Building in late 2015. Over the past 17 months the duo has gradually begun to fill the spaces that for decades were used to make milk tanks and other equipment for the dairy industry.
The tenants include nearly 60 employees on the fifth floor from AC Business Media, a construction trades publication company. There are 80 employees on the fourth floor for RateWatch, a financial data company owned by the TheStreet, and Salameh’s Verlo store, which is undergoing a renovation on the first floor. What had been an adjacent warehouse for the creamery factory has been split in half for CrossFit Fort Atkinson, a fitness gym and a Mr. Brews Tap House that will open in a few weeks.
The project is being supported by the city, which approved $80,000 in tax incremental financing for improvements to the parking lots and $300,000 in the form of a revolving loan. The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. has also awarded a $250,000 grant to the city to help with further development on the site, which is adjacent to the Glacial Heritage Trail.
“It’s a catalyst project for the downtown,” said Matt Trebatoski, Fort Atkinson’s city manager for the past three years. “It’s definitely a welcome thing to the community.”
The Creamery Building was built in 1920 at the corner of North Main Street and Sherman Avenue, just a block north of the Rock River. The company had moved to Fort Atkinson from Chicago in 1898 after purchasing Cornish Curtis & Greene, another creamery equipment manufacturer, according to the Hoard Historical Museum.
Creamery Package grew into one of the largest manufacturers in the world for equipment for creameries, cheese factories, dairies and ice cream plants, but the Fort Atkinson facility was closed in 1967 in favor of larger quarters in Lake Mills.
And now it’s up to Herl and Salameh to ensure the lady can live another 100 years.