Rethinking Retail in Drexel Town Square

Even with amenities like a splash pool and ice rink, Drexel Town Square evokes small-town charm. The mixed-use development in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, features open walkways, green spaces, and bike paths. Its idyllic main street invites comparisons to a modern Mayberry.

So when Curran’s team took on a two-store project in Drexel Town Square, we knew a typical retail structure would not do. The design, which will house PetSmart and one other store once construction is completed, needed to blend in with the development’s other buildings.

This was no easy feat. Project lead Stefanie Lutz, one of Curran’s architects, explains, “Drexel Town Square has strict design requirements.” The development’s guidelines mandate minimum percentages of glazing and specify the composition of façade materials. In addition to meeting these requirements, Curran had to design a shell that matched the tenant’s internal merchandising.

The architects also had to design around an unusual lot. The building sits on a corner with its back and sides facing two of the development’s main roads. The architects had to make each of these walls presentable. Stefanie explains, “Each façade had to essentially be treated as if it was the front of the building.”

Drexel Town Square
Curran partnered with construction company Thompson Thrift on the project. Adam Fischer, a senior project manager at Thompson, says it took several rounds of revision to meet building requirements. “We went through a couple of different drafts of a building design,” he says, “just making adjustments until everybody was happy.”

The team used massing, composition, and detailing to design a dynamic, contemporary structure that stands out without overpowering. The final product will combine brick, cement panels, burnished block, and stucco. “Visually, it has a great effect,” raves Adam.

Stefanie says the Drexel Town Square project was a challenge, but she enjoys taking a different approach to retail construction. “The design doesn’t appear to be a typical retail space,” she says.

Adam agrees. “It’s not your standard retail center,” he says. “It would not surprise me if when this thing is built that this is the nicest-looking PetSmart that anyone has ever seen in the country.”

He says he’s proud of his team for finding a way to get the challenging project done. And he credits Curran’s architects for a great design, saying, “What they’ve put together is far and above what we were even thinking when we started with the project.”

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