The city of Beaver Dam has an unexpected partner in its efforts to turn the old YMCA property into a police station.

Students with Milwaukee School of Engineering, through college instructor

Bob Lemke, have volunteered to undertake the preliminary design of the potential police station as their senior project.

As president of Wisconsin Redevelopment, Lemke is familiar with the city and its current projects. Wisconsin Redevelopment recently closed on the old Weyco property and plans on redeveloping the site into a 33-unit loft-style housing complex.

During the closing, Lemke asked Mayor Tom Kennedy to consider allowing his MSOE students to take a look at the old YMCA property and put together a series of preliminary designs.

Kennedy brought the idea to the operations committee Monday night, and the plan was unanimously approved.

“These are really good students… They’re very motivated and our past clients just loved working with them, getting energy out of it as well,” Lemke said. “It’s a two-way street.”

The work itself will be performed at no cost to the city, although Lemke asked for and received $1,500 to cover materials. The city is under no obligation to utilize the students’ work, but it will provide city leaders with a few design options while allowing the MSOE students the opportunity to apply their skills in a real-world setting.

“We‘re helping them as much as they‘re helping us,” Kennedy said.

Students will begin with a research phase, studying the old YMCA site and learning about the logistics of police department design.

Actual design work will not begin until December and by February, the city should have a look at the students’ completed work in the form of 3-foot by 3-foot models. Professional engineers, architects and construction managers will also review the work, and after receiving feedback, students will develop a cost estimate.

Three different teams will work on the project, each coming up with its own design. The police department’s initial research has indicated that a new building would be preferred to a renovation of the current building, and Lemke said designing new construction fits MSOE’s program goals.

Still, Lemke said it was possible that one of the three teams could focus on a renovation plan, depending on the city’s wishes.

“What we want to do is challenge them in their engineering,” Lemke said. “And it gives you a free look at design development drawings as opposed to hiring an architect and going through that process. We do this for a lot of non-profits and municipalities… since I was here I offered this to the mayor, and it would be a good opportunity for our students to come to Beaver Dam.”

MSA Professional Services is in the middle of its own study regarding the old YMCA property as an extension of the city‘s already completed space needs plan. The results are expected by mid-October, and they could shape the direction of the MSOE project.

“I think it’s a great idea, and I’d certainly love the opportunity for the students to learn something,” operations committee chairperson Laine Meyer said. “Certainly, looking at the past projects (they‘ve completed), it’s a pretty impressive list of projects.”

dbaulch@capitalnewspapers.com

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