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How Coakley managed a tight deadline to convert a Milwaukee warehouse into new DHS offices

The CH Coakley building on 64th Street prior to its renovation.

By Sean Ryan  –  Reporter, Milwaukee Business Journal

Dec 13, 2022

It’s a testament to a tight project timeline and the construction industry’s current unpredictable supply chain that permanent doors arrived for a new state office space in Milwaukee three weeks after employees began working in the building.

To have the office space ready for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to move in at the start of November, landlord CH Coakley and its builders had to install temporary doors in its office space, said Steve Nelson, Coakley vice president of facilities. The permanent ones were delivered about three weeks later.That is one way Milwaukee-based CH Coakley met a tight timeline to turn 56,000 square feet of warehousing space into modern offices for the state department’s Milwaukee Enrollment Services program. Those offices are in Coakley’s building at 6055 N. 64th St.

The 64th Street building space before its renovation for the DHS offices.

The project team had about 120 days to turn the project around, said president Mike Coakley. About 32 tall glass windows were added for the offices, and vaulted ceilings installed that kept the building’s skylights exposed to the interior.

The renovation was a tall order given the current construction industry is experiencing shortages that necessitate orders be placed months before products arrive on site.

“The coordination, planning and scheduling of materials was complicated due to supply chain issues, material cost overruns, and the coordination and cooperation of numerous independent organizations,” Coakley said.

The building space after its renovation for the DHS offices.

Items such as windows and hardware for the doors were delayed, but project schedules were adjusted to accommodate them, Nelson said. But the doors had lead times beyond the November completion date, necessitating the temporary doors be installed.

The same is true of the rooftop heating and cooling machinery for the new office space, Nelson said.

“They were able to get temporary units until the new ones arrive, scheduled for the end of this month,” Nelson said of the machinery.

Coakley worked with contractor JP Cullen and designer Plunkett Raysich Architects on the renovation.

The state of Wisconsin through a competitive request for proposals selected Coakley’s building for a seven-year lease for the DHS offices. The offices provide enrollment services for BadgerCare Plus, FoodShare, and Wisconsin Shares, and moved from Milwaukee County’s Marcia P. Coggs Building at 1220 W. Vliet St.

Acquired by Coakley about two years ago, the 64th Street building has 375,000 total square feet. About a year ago, 10 people worked there, according to Mike Coakley. Currently, more than 240 people do, he said.

Up to 140,000 square feet of the building remains available for lease. Other spaces are leased for a recycling center and for Coakley’s storage and distribution operations.

“This was a daunting yet fulfilling project that we were able to complete within the first two years of ownership,” Coakley said.

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