Partnership Aids in Maintaining a Safe, Diverse Job Site in Milwaukee County

Building Advantage’s May project spotlight is the Milwaukee Youth Arts Center (MYAC) expansion in Milwaukee’s Schlitz Park Neighborhood.

First opened in 2005, MYAC houses the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra and First Stage. The programs annually serve roughly 25,000 students throughout southeastern Wisconsin. The Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra and First Stage already have extensive waiting lists, which is expected to continue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To accommodate more students and build out their offerings, MYAC is expanding its existing building’s footprint by adding 42,000-square-feet of usable space on the lower level. The changes will be able to serve an additional 20,000 students annually.

The scope of work includes adding two rehearsal halls, six studios, and six small-group instruction rooms on the lower level. Additional upgrades will improve accessibility, technology and lighting throughout the building for improved safety and energy savings. An upgrade to the Mainstage Hall is also slated.

Like most projects during the pandemic, COVID-19 challenged the construction team to maintain the safest job site possible. Hunzinger and the local Construction and Building Trades’ vast experience with health and safety training and COVID-19 protocols have made this project successful.

“Hunzinger has been a great construction partner from instituting strict COVID-19 work and safety protocols and enforcing them daily; to assembling a strong group of union subcontractors that are dedicated to quality work”, says Del Wilson, MYAC’s Executive Director, “They have created a safe environment and a diverse workforce that is maximizing onsite apprenticeships to encourage careers in the construction industry”.

Along with strict COVID-19 guidelines, Hunzinger was tasked with allocating 25 percent of the project to minority participation, a goal that has easily been exceeded. “We are on track to hit 40 percent Minority and Women-Owned Business utilization on the project”, says Joan Zepecki, Director of Corporate Affairs and Diversity & Inclusion Coordinator at Hunzinger, “We’ve obtained commitments from all subcontractors to ensure that their workforces were inclusive and right now we have a job site workforce that is comprised of 30 percent minorities and women and over 30 percent apprentices”.

MYAC has received roughly $13.4 million in pledges to date and an estimated New Market Tax Credits Net Benefit of $1.28 million to complete the project. The second phase of construction includes plans to renovate the Baasen House / German YMCA building across the street. The building was purchased in 2016 and was most recently rented to a charter high school program.

Hunzinger and the Construction and Building Trades are glad to partner on a project that has significance in the Milwaukee area, especially for local youth. With an appreciation for diversity and inclusion, they are also committed to seeing above-average MBE & WBE participation. The project is due to be completed in Fall 2021.