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West Allis is sold on idea of fixing farmers market

Work will restore facility to the way it looked before crash

The collapsed wall and roof of a corner of the West Allis Farmers Market will be rebuilt close to its 1930s original construction design. A minivan inadvertently hit the wall, which collapsed, taking a roof section with it. The vehicle in the photograph was not involved in the June 6 accident.

The collapsed wall and roof of a corner of the West Allis Farmers Market will be rebuilt close to its 1930s original construction design. A minivan inadvertently hit the wall, which collapsed, taking a roof section with it. The vehicle in the photograph was not involved in the June 6 accident.

Oct. 1, 2013

West Allis — The estimated $170,000 damage done when a minivan hit a wall of the West Allis Farmers Market will be repaired to make it as close to the original 1930s construction as possible.

West Allis officials had debated whether to save a lot of that money by making that part of the market into an outdoor picnic area, but that idea failed to take hold.

"It's popular the way it is," Alderman Michael Czaplewski said. "Don't mess with success."

Alderwoman Rosalie Reinke concurred: "I consider the market one of our icons in the city."

Also, a number of farmers who said they are happy to sell their produce at the market favored a city decision to rebuild, Reinke said.

City staffers felt it was prudent to bring forth the possibility of a lower-cost picnic area, as well as other ideas, to the Common Council, said Michael Lewis, public works director.

"It was our responsibility to look at all the options," said Lewis, though he indicated that he personally had hoped aldermen would support full restoration.

The market building at 6501 W. National Ave.. was damaged June 6, when a minivan hit a wall in the oldest section, collapsing it and part of the roof. The driver, an employee of a food vendor, was trying to get to a selling spot on the street. The impact left a thigh-high heap of rubble and a hanging roof section.

Because the accident happened so early in the season, only two vendors were materially affected. One sold his goods under a tent all summer. As the cleanup progressed, the impact on sellers and buyers was minimized, officials said.

The city is insured for the rebuilding cost, Lewis said. But the state municipal insurance program that covers the city will likely try to recover the expense from the vendor or driver, he said.

Undamaged bricks and decorative panels have been saved for the work. Although it may be impossible to match some building elements, people walking past or even shopping at the market will probably not notice, Lewis said.

"Some of the materials and techniques just aren't done these days," Lewis said.

But to come as close as possible, Lewis said he will ask the architectural firm that did the remodeling at the market several years ago to submit a proposal to rebuild. They might still be able to get more of the building materials they used on the original remodeling, he said, and they understand the 1930s architecture.

The project will go out for bids later this year, Lewis said. If they come in at the expected cost and the council awards a contract, construction should start in spring, he said.

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