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Mt. Tosa will include assisted-living apartments

But developer told not to bring forward any more changes

Aug. 3, 2011

The Common Council agreed to allow assisted-living units as part of the Mt. Tosa Neighborhood, even though Mayor Jill Didier on Tuesday warned that the development already has undergone numerous changes that move it away from the original project vision.

Developer Helmet Toldt's pitch for an urban village on former Public Works property at 113th Street and Walnut Road was chosen by the city among several proposals, Didier said.

Since the project was approved, the sale price was cut by more than half, the city provided financial assistance and the first parcel was sold to a senior-housing management company. The latest request by Toldt to amend the developer's agreement with the city proposes building a 67-unit assisted-living and memory-care facility at the site where a 40-unit condominium building had been approved.

"Nothing of which the developer proposed has happened," Didier said.

At some point, the city must hold a developer accountable to the agreement, she added.

The mayor said she doesn't object to senior housing, but she is frustrated that two of the neighborhood's seven parcels don't align with the initial project plans.

The council can't discriminate against elderly housing. A decision can look at the type of housing units, such as condos or apartments vs. the institutional use of assisted living, City Attorney Alan Kesner said.

She received support from Alderman Dennis McBride, who recalled Toldt coming to the city at a time when the economy already was slowing. He said he understands a difficult sales market for condos. Marketing the units as high-end apartments, at least until the home sales market picks up, could prove successful.

However, allowing another amendment simply moves too far away from the original concept, McBride said.

"It could be a very different concept than what we had hoped," he said.

The aldermen for the district, Don Birschel and Cheryl Berdan, weren't crazy about another change but they didn't see it as a deal-breaker. But they said Toldt has been granted all the help he is going to get, and they don't want to see him propose changes to any of the other five parcels.

"The rubber band has stretched as far as it can stretch after approving this," Birschel said.

The former plans called for 100 apartments and 40 condos spread over three lots, and would have had a total value of $16.7 million. The amendment changes plans for the same three lots to 60 apartments, 40 condos and 67 assisted-living units, creating a value of $18.3 million.

Alderman Peter Donegan said he doesn't object to the change because he doesn't foresee property value taking a hit - and economic conditions lend to leniency.

"So much has changed since then (the time the project was pitched)," Donegan said. "I think we set the bar too high if we say a development plan can't change in a time like this."

At a glance

How members of the Wauwatosa Common Council voted on changing the developer's agreement to permit assisted living in the Mt. Tosa

Neighborhood

IN FAVOR: Cheryl Berdan, Don

Birschel, Kathleen Causier, Peter Donegan, Brian Ewerdt, Jacqueline Jay, Jill Organ, Bobby Pantuso, Jeff

Roznowski, Jason Wilke and Craig Wilson

OPPOSED: Dennis McBride and Michael Walsh

ABSENT: Tim Hanson, Eric Meaux and Linda Nikcevich

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