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Market holding back Mt. Tosa condo plans

Developer looks for switch to assisted-living units

June 15, 2011

The condominium market remains in the dumps, so the developer of the Mt. Tosa Neighborhood wants to switch plans and offer assisted-living apartments.

However, that change would prove a dramatic shift from the trendy, urban feel initially promised to the city, Mayor Jill Didier said.

Helmut Toldt, president of Brookfield-based Toldt Development, had asked to modify the developer's agreement with the city to allow construction of 67 single- or studio-unit assisted-living and memory care rental units instead of the previously planned 40 two-bedroom condos.

Those condos could come later on a different lot that's part of the overall project - if the market comes back, he told the Plan Commission on Monday.

"We think there is a market for the condominiums proposed, but not today," Toldt said.

He explained banks aren't willing to finance condo projects. He initially planned to build two-bedroom units valued at $200,000, but a look at local real estate sales showed 13 condos sold in Tosa in the last six months in that price range.

"We would have more than a three-year supply of condos," Toldt said. "Lenders will want at minimum half the units sold."

The mayor said Tosa doesn't have condos similar to the urban-feeling project - which also included commercial spaces, townhouse lofts and wi-fi in the neighborhood - that was first pitched to the city in competition with other projects in 2003 and selected in 2007.

"I still believe there is a need in the community for condos of this type, but I understand the financial challenge," Didier said.

She requested the commission hold the request for a month so she could meet one-on-one with Toldt and discuss options.

Toldt already is moving forward on Cedar Glen, an 80-unit senior apartment facility at the former city landfill site at 113th Street and Walnut Road. That project has qualified for tax credits. The Design Review Board will discuss the facility tonight and construction could begin this summer, he said.

The portion of the project now under discussion would be adjacent to Cedar Glen, for the "continuum care" building, dubbed Oak Park Place. The application submitted to the Wauwatosa Community Development Department breaks down the new proposal to 31 one-bedroom and 16 studio apartments categorized as assisted living and 20 apartments for people with dementia. A staff of 40 people would provide round-the-clock care.

The developer's agreement approved in December 2009 details the composition of housing units for the entire 18-acre project, as well as each building, and sets a timeline for phasing. Commissioners asked to look at the entire plan, not just for this specific building, at its July meeting.

Commissioner Jody Lowe said she sees a need for assisted living/memory care housing and thinks Toldt would pull off a quality facility. However, her fellow commissioner, John Albert, said he was "apprehensive of taking a well-thought-out plan to create a checkerboard of what the market will take at the time."

This isn't the first housing project to be approved for condos by the Common Council only to come back and ask for a change to apartments for seniors.

David Israel, developer of a condo project called Stone Pointe, got Common Council approval in April 2010 to convert 82 of the more than 220 units - the first of three buildings - on the site north of the Grede Foundries plant along State Street into affordable rental properties for senior citizens.

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