MIRRO IMAGE OF THE PAST
Impact Seven, Inc.
Quorum Architects Inc., Mark Knapp, AIA, Principal Architect;
and Chris Hau, Assoc. AIA, Principal Project Manager
Window Design Consultation
Mark Henry, CSI, CDT, CCPR, Graham Architectural Products Rep
Bill Wilder, Director of Technical Sales, Graham Architectural Products
Greg Turnage, Application Engineer, Graham Architectural Products
Help a Wisconsin redevelopment firm meet historic preservation office demands while converting an abandoned factory building into 40 affordable 2- and 3-bedroom apartments, a majority of which are to be income-restricted.
“During the project, when the window replacement started to occur, you could stand across the street and look at the windows on the first floor which were remaining, and the windows on the floor above which were being replaced, and it was a great match."
Dave Rhoda, Senior Project Manager, Catalyst Construction
New Life for Mirro Plant #3
The Mirro Aluminum Company was once the world’s largest manufacturer of aluminum cookware. In its eight plants in three states, it produced an array of aluminum products, from pots and pans, and coffee pots, to saucer sleds, sheds and siding.
For years, Mirro Plant #3, built in 1929, was a center of Mirro manufacturing in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. According to the Wisconsin Historical Society, it was where the company’s “popular ‘Mirro-Craft’ line of lightweight and inexpensive family pleasure boats was developed, tested and produced.”
Production ceased in the building in the early 60s, according to Mark Knapp, AIA, a principal at Quorum Architects, “after which it was used as a warehouse and leasable tenant space.” Over the next several decades, it exchanged hands a few times and more recently seemed to be dying a slow death, with only the first floor occupied.
Now, though, Mirro Plant #3 has been reborn as Artist Lofts, a 40-unit, 2- and 3-bedroom apartment building. Windows from Graham Architectural Products (GAP) helped owners overcome a key challenge in bringing about the transformation.
The developers were seeking tax credits and windows were the building’s dominant architectural feature.
“They are very big windows and there’s a lot of them, which makes the living space great,” said Kristine Giornalista, vice president, real estate development, for Impact Seven, Inc., which developed the project along with Wisconsin Redevelopment, LLC. “That’s what you notice about the building. There’s not a lot of architectural flair to it. It’s the windows that really make the exterior – and the interior, too, with all the daylight you get given the high ceilings and the high windows.”
But not just any window would do. “Old steel sash warehouse windows require a very specialized replacement window due to the very narrow sightlines of the frame, sashes and muntins,” Knapp said. “Additionally, the original single-pane steel warehouse windows at the ground floor parking garage were being maintained for historical reasons and the new windows would be seen in a side-by-side comparison to the originals.”
Fortunately, Graham had recently introduced its SR6700 – a steel replica window that brings modern performance to the classic look of windows commonly installed in mills and factories throughout much of the 20th century. When Graham adapted the SR6700 to Mirro #3’s needs, Knapp said, “It was used as basis-of-design in the final window replication drawings submitted to the National Park Service.”
Dave Rhoda, senior project manager for Catalyst Construction, explained, saying, “With projects of this type, every window is custom-made to match not only the sizes of the openings, but also the profiles of the muntins and the windows to replicate what was there for the original design. We had to go through and review every single window on a case-by-case basis. Graham and our installer helped with that process to make sure everything was procured appropriately.”
Rhoda credited Graham Rep Mark Henry and the GAP team for its “help on the front end with details and making sure that everything would meet National Park Service and State Historical Preservation Office (SHPO) requirements for the window replacement.”
In addition, Graham created a custom subsill that simplified the installation process and ensured weather-tight performance.
Henry said, “It was something that we came up with that was unique to the application. We cut two custom dies for this job – a custom sub sill and a custom interior three-dimensional muntin. That’s an area where Graham excels and a good example of the things Graham brings to the table that a lot of our competitors are not so eager to do.”
Knapp elaborated, saying, “The original steel windows were directly set with the projecting leg of the sill angle frame embedded in the cast-in-place concrete sill. Use of a subsill allowed several things: a) it allowed for covering the scar of the old sill framing; b) it provided a level, self-weeping base for the replacement window system; and – most importantly – c) it allowed the window units to be set easily from the interior. Due to the size of the window units and the fact that two exterior faces of the building were not easily accessible (one side abutted an in-use railroad spur), being able to install the units from the interior side was a major construction consideration.”
Rhoda was impressed: “During the project, when the window replacement started to occur, you could stand across the street and look at the windows on the first floor which were remaining, and the windows on the floor above which were being replaced, and it was a great match. You couldn’t really tell the difference between the existing and the new. That is exactly what we’re trying to do in a preservation type project.”
He added, “From their ability to match the existing design and from a customization standpoint, I think Graham did a great job. They were fantastic. They were great to work with all the way from pre-construction through construction.”
All told, the project required over 300 of Graham’s SR6700 windows in 12 different sizes.
Giornalista said, “It was super important for us to get these windows made by Graham to meet the SHPO’s expectations. I think it’s important to say that the windows were a critical piece to us getting the federal and state historic tax credits.”
In the end, Artist Lofts received over $3 million in federal and state historic tax credits.
And those credits are paying off. According to Impact Seven, it’s the highest-rated energy efficient multi-family green development in the history of the Wisconsin Green Built Home program. It also won a Neighborhood Development Award from Progress Lakeshore, a regional economic development organization, and is now listed in the National and Wisconsin Registers of Historic Places.
Rhoda concluded, “The Artist Loft and Mirro project is a great development for the city of Manitowoc and Wisconsin in general. Catalyst and myself, personally, are very proud to have been a part of the team to develop this. The vision that the ownership group had and the vision that the architect had is really showcased in the building and it turned out to be a great project. We’re really proud to be a part of it.”
Henry concurred, saying, “I’m very proud of what Graham accomplished for this project and for the owners, as well.”