Stainbrook struggles to rebuild "Purple House"
Most longtime South Siders remember the controversial "purple house" which was located on 43rd and Howard Avenues and was both adored and abhorred for its colorful exterior and quirky yard decor.
In the summer of 2013, OnMilwaukee.com first reported about the "purple house," telling the fascinating story of the original owner – an eccentric Vietnam war veteran named Florian Meler – who purchased the home in 1993 with a loan secured through the VA.
Over the years, Meler received numerous letters from the City of Milwaukee, ordering him to paint his home (which was yellow when he bought it) and clean up his yard.
"He was irritated. He didn't like people butting into his business," says Meler's son, Justin. "So he painted it his favorite color. Purple. And every time he got (another) letter, he painted another flower on the house."
In 2007, Meler passed away from an accidental prescription medication overdose at the age of 63. His wife, grief stricken and in poor health, passed away from a heart attack two years later.
Justin was unable to secure a loan for the house, which had a black mold problem, unless he was willing to tear it down completely and rebuild.
"In order to get the loan, I had to tear down the house. And I didn't want to tear down the house, and even if I did, I would have been left with an empty lot and no money to develop on it anyway," Meler told OnMilwaukee.com in a 2014 follow-up.
The property went into foreclosure and eventually, David Stainbrook, owner of G&S Construction & Remodeling, paid $31,000 in cash for the purple house.
At the time, he was told by a bank that he was pre-qualified for a $350,000 loan to rebuild on the lot once the house was razed.
Stainbrook, who currently lives in Gurnee, Ill., carefully took down the house and donated what he could to Habitat for Humanity.
"I could have saved a lot of money by coming in and knocking it down with a bulldozer, but this was never about the money for me," he says.
Securing the bank loan for the rebuild was a lot more challenging than Stainbrook anticipated, but he eventually got one and was able to erect a two-unit structure made predominantly from recycled materials and with lots of "green" features.
Ironically and similarly to Meler, Stainbrook also ran into numerous glitches with the City of Milwaukee and says it has been one struggle after another to rebuild on the property.
"It's been a tremendous battle," he says.
To make matters worse, Stainbrook was remodeling one of the units to meet ADA standards and planned to have his mother and disabled father move into the space. However, two weeks before their move-in date, his father passed away.
Stainbrook plans to keep the unit ADA accessible.
"I am now hoping to rent it to a vet with some injuries," says Stainbrook, which would make sense considering the unit is ADA-fitted and also because it's a nod to Meler.
There is also an unfinished "garden apartment" below the main unit that Stainbrook hopes to finish soon and possibly rent to an Alverno student.
Currently, the property is almost finished. Stainbrook is putting final touches on the landscaping and exterior and plans to rent it out in the spring.
Stainbrook says he has been in contact with Justin in order to pick out the right shade of purple to paint the accents on the new structure and also to plant Meler's favorite trees. Originally, he says he wanted to put purple lights on the outside of the house but was unable to find the right hue.
Stainbrook, who grew up on Milwaukee's South Side, had seen the purple house since he was a kid and says he was eager to "contribute something positive" to the city in honor of the joy the house brought a lot of residents.
Although he finally sees the light at the end of the tunnel, Stainbrook still needs to secure a permit from the city for the second unit and he hopes the city, the alder and the mayor will work with him in the near future.
"It shouldn't be such a struggle to do a positive thing," he says. "I really want to contribute something positive to the city. I think that's what my father would have wanted."
For rental information and other inquiries contact Stainbrook at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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