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House on the move to make room for Mo's parking lot

Plan to demolish homes scrapped in favor of greener option

Feb. 9, 2010

Plans to demolish two houses to make room for another parking lot at Mo's Irish Pub have changed.

Movers spent Monday afternoon inserting steel beams under and raising on jacks the 1,400-square-foot ranch house at 431 108th Place, just across the street from the restaurant.

Due to Tuesday's snow storm, crews delayed sliding the structure off its foundation, expecting to be able to do so Wednesday, after NOW's deadline.

The house will have to remain on the property while permits to take the structure on the road are finalized at the city and state levels. The house will be taken to West Bend within the next two to three weeks, said restaurant owner Johnny Vassallo, who purchased the properties last fall.

A more pleasing alternative

He started looking into moving the homes after the pub's neighbors voiced opposition to demolishing two houses that were in good condition to put in asphalt parking areas.

"Some of the neighbors were upset that houses were going to be destroyed," he said. "This is a green option. The houses are being saved."

Initially, Vassallo looked at buying a vacant lot a block away and moving the home there. Some on his staff recommended listing the house on eBay.

But a representative from house-moving service R.G. Structural Movers called and said the company would like to move the house and had an interested buyer.

The house will be moved to new subdivision made entirely of recycled homes, said R.G. Structural Movers owner Bob George.

It keeps the existing house out of the landfill, eliminates the need to use more materials to build a new house and provides jobs for the crew of movers, he said. The deal also saves Vassallo money.

"We bought the house for the price of $1," George said. "If he were to hire a demolition company, it would cost him $14,000 to $20,000 to tear down the house."

The movers not only relocate the structure, they also assist with closing up the exposed basement. They plan to carry the house on a semitrailer down Blue Mound Road, a short path out of the city.

Crews got started prepping the house and detached garage for the move in November, said Debra Stephenson, vice president of business management for Mo's Restaurants. The utilities had to be cut off, and the Lannonstone exterior removed to make the structure lighter and less likely to crack during the move.

After the first house is removed, prep work will begin on the brick house next door, which is destined for the same West Bend subdivision. A large tree in the front yard will have to be removed so movers can access the house. It likely will take four to five months before that house is ready to relocate, Vassallo said.

Lot is effort to solve problems

Moving the houses will provide space for a 48-stall parking lot, the third for the Wauwatosa business, bringing total parking to 179 spaces. Additional parking is needed to take cars off the street, thereby lessening the pub's impact on the neighborhood. Neighbors have complained about cars turning around in their driveways and speeding through the neighborhood, as well as about bar patrons urinating on their lawns.

The restaurant's popularity has made parking an issue, especially on weekends, since the restaurant first opened, Vassallo said.

The success of the business and its ability to draw people to Wauwatosa was the major reason city officials backed the parking lot plans, although many voiced concerns about losing the homes.

"I'm glad they're reclaiming the house to meet a unique fit for today's time (of environmental consciousness)," Mayor Jill Didier said.

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