BURLINGTON — Developers need vision, property, financing and business acumen, for starters.
Local businessman Shad Branen used another ingredient for his plan to redevelop the former Schuette-Daniels Furniture: baking soda.
Branen, owner of Burlington’s Plaza Theater and WIN (formerly Wisconsin Information Network) Media, plans to inject new commercial life into the former furniture store at 425 N. Pine St. The high-end furniture store went out of business after being damaged by an April 5, 2014, fire.
The fire itself was confined to an adjacent smaller building, Branen said, and the back part of that has been torn down. But the fire also destroyed the main building’s content and equipment and left heavy smoke damage.
Branen bought the damaged structure late 2014 from the Daniels family. He is redeveloping the property as “premier” retail and office space in a project called Keuper Mercantile, the building’s original name.
Part of the project has been demolition of the interior, gutting everything including the mechanical systems and stripping the building to its brick shell.
A necessary step was eradicating the fire-smoke smell. That was done, Branen explained, by treating the building somewhat as a large refrigerator and spraying dry baking soda onto all surfaces.
It was allowed to sit for several days before the baking soda was removed.
Keuper Mercantile and its companion building total about 20,000 square feet, Branen said. He said he bought the property because he was looking for more office space for WIN Media, and he still intends to house that company into the Keuper building at 425 N. Pine St.
The main building has three floors including the lower level, and Branen has a different plan for each:
- Street level will be retail, with two spaces in the main building and one in the smaller one. “I’m pursuing some kind of restaurant or food service” that could be a new or existing business, he said.
- The upper floor will be office space.
- The lower level will be part private offices and part co-working space, a concept in which various businesses or entrepreneurs use common spaces and/or amenities. Launch Box, at 141 Main St. in Downtown Racine, for example, is a co-working space.
“There are a lot of small businesses, and many are working from home,” Branen said about the potential need for co-working space.
He said he is talking with prospective retail and office tenants.
The Keuper Mercantile redevelopment will approach $1 million, Branen said, and he’s finalizing financing now. The package will include: bank financing which he said is in place; façade grants from the City of Burlington; and he’s applied for an approximately $250,000 business development loan from Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.
Burlington’s Stelling & Associates is doing the architectural work. “We’re trying to maintain the historical feeling” of the building, Branen said. They managed to salvage some of the tin ceiling but aren’t yet sure where that will be reused.
Keuper Mercantile may be developed in stages if necessary, Branen said.
He acknowledged Burlington already has “a lot” of available office space. But Branen said his may offer some advantages, with brand-new space in an older building and in a prominent location.