Preservation and adaptive reuse: Strict adherence to standards reaps rewards

Ceilings and roof system

Before construction began, the wood ceilings were so rotted the roof was exposed, which had been badly weathered over time. Similar work was done to the ceilings as the floors since they are the underside of the floor deck. Each apartment showcases beautiful Douglas Fir 2×6 tongue-and-groove ceilings.

The flat roofs were replaced with a thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) single-ply membrane roof system. This roof system was selected because the flexibility of the membrane makes it highly resistant to tears, punctures, and impact damage. This flexibility also allows for the building’s movement and setting, without compromising the roof’s performance.

New standing-seam metal roofs were installed on the atriums to match the original structure and a common roofing material used during the early 1900s.


The entire Horlick complex was constructed with Cream City bricks. Unique to the area, these bricks were first discovered and made in cities along Lake Michigan in Southeastern Wisconsin in the late 1800s and early 1900s. To restore the brick to both its original coloring and, more importantly, its structural integrity, the masonry contractors worked for more than six months tuckpointing areas where the mortar deteriorated, or the brick disintegrated. Because of historic preservation, strict attention to details was critical. This included elements as specific as the mortar color and composition to match what was originally on the building in adherence with the NPS policies and guidelines.

The NPS and the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) also closely reviewed both the profiles and locations of every window, which had to be cut out within 6.3 mm of where each window was in the original building. To be designated on the Historic Register, every window that was a window on the original blueprints had to turn back into windows. To that end, the two large, non-historic additions were razed. Many of the openings had been infilled and modified with various materials such as brick, block, or steel, and the openings were enlarged to accommodate overhead doors. This meant the team had to rebuild all of these openings to bring back its historic integrity and make it function as a residential property.

Unique to this adaptive reuse design, the first floor units all have private exterior entries. The doors for these first floor units’ exterior entries were placed in the original two-layer brick arched header window openings that only needed minor modifications to fit the doors. To remain true to the 1902 design, very few new openings were cut in where there were not windows or doors and many of the units’ interior walls incorporate what was originally the building’s exterior brick walls.


The entire project is expected to support hundreds of local and regional construction jobs through its phases. The ‘Arabella’ project achieved 100 full-time construction positions (‘The William’ will add another 275 full-time construction positions), 27.5 percent emerging/disadvantaged business participation, 48 percent minority participation, and supported 20 new Racine Works hires (15 percent of total job hours).

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