Former Brewery Gives Gritty Neighborhood A Platinum Rating

The Pabst beer that once flowed freely in Milwaukee was amber in color, but years after the downtown brewery complex closed down the legacy is all green, thanks to an innovative adaptive reuse program that impressed the judges at the U.S. Green Building Council.

The 20-acre former industrial park turned tourist attraction was awarded a LEED Platinum designation for only the fifth time since the “neighborhood” rating was made part of the USGBC’s LEED program. Now known simply as The Brewery, the cluster of converted factory structures is just the third such renovation project in the United States to take home the neighborhood-wide LEED Platinum title. (The others include 360 State Street in New Haven, Conn., and the 34-acre Hoyt Yards in Portland, Ore.)

The former Pabst brew house will open in April as the Brew House Inn & Suites in April. Image via The Brewery Project LLC.

The former Pabst brew house will open in April as the Brew House Inn & Suites in April. Image via The Brewery Project LLC.

The site, containing dozens of historic buildings, was purchased in 2006 by local developer and philanthropist Joseph Zilber. Through the leadership of Zilber, who died in 2010 at age 92, the complex was refurbished with a primary focus on establishing sustainable building practices.

An aerial image of he complex give a sense of the project's massive scale. Image via The Brewery Project LLC.

An aerial image of he complex give a sense of the project’s massive scale. Image via The Brewery Project LLC.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel,  the overall neighborhood scored high for various green activities, such as brownfields cleanup, historic preservation, a diverse array of building types, the recycling of old materials, the creation of walkable streets and stormwater management.

One of the crown jewels in the renovated complex is the Zilber School of Public Health, which, in its previous lives, had been a hosiery factory, a cheese-making facility and a beer storage facility. Earlier this year, the Zilber School earned LEED Gold status for using energy 24 percent more efficiently than the local building code requirements.

The old Pabst sign is one of the many original architectural features that were preserved during the renovation. Image via The Brewery Project LLC.

The old Pabst sign is one of the many original architectural features that were preserved during the renovation. Image via The Brewery Project LLC.

Other noteworthy buildings on the campus include Cardinal Stritch University’s College of Education and Leadership, the Blue Ribbon Brewery Lofts apartment building, the Best Place pub, Brewery Point senior housing, a parking garage, a public park and other office buildings.

In the next phase of the ongoing project, the former Pabst brew house is being converted into an extended-stay hotel, called the Brew House Inn & Suites, which is slated to open in April.

Randy Woods is a Seattle-based writer and editor with 20+ years of experience in the business publishing world. A former managing editor of Seattle Business, iSixSigma, Claims and Waste Age magazines, he has covered topics that include newspaper publishing, entrepreneurism, green businesses, insurance, environmental protection and garbage hauling (yes, really). He also contributes to the Career Center Blog for The Seattle Times and edits a photography magazine called PhotoMedia. When not working, he likes to hide out in Seattle movie theaters and attend film festivals—even on sunny days.