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At site of Wauwatosa development, neighbors get specific

Trees, height and aesthetics for proposed building come under scrutiny

Dec. 18, 2012

The Community Development Authority and neighborhood residents toured the site last week of a proposed mixed-use development in the Village that has drawn opposition.

A four-story project that would include retail spaces on the first floor and 36 residential units on the upper floors has been identified as the preferred proposal for the site, although CDA members have said the design may undergo alteration.

Residents of Church Street, on the other side of the block, have said the building is out of scale with the neighborhood, that it would disturb their privacy and present a stark wall just beyond their properties.

Last week's visit to the site did little to allay their concerns. A fire department ladder was raised to 43 feet to illustrate the height of the proposed building's roof, and it was easily higher than the Fire Station, just north of the site, and the building just south that houses the Cody & Company salon.

Alderman Peter Donegan, standing in a backyard on Church Street, summed up the view of many: "I think the bottom line here is you don't see anything else from right here but the building" if the proposal is carried out.

Kevin Pulz, whose lot line is about 22 feet from the building, said his view of the Village and a route his children often use out the backyard gate would be cut off by the building. Upper-floor residents would be able to look down on family activities in their backyard.

Katie LaLonde, whose lot line is just 11 feet from the proposed building, said she is worried about the fate of a number of 50-year-old trees she owns that stand outside her backyard fence.

"The trees are technically on my property line, but then they canopy over where the building wall would be," she said.

Mark Sternig, who owns Bodywork, a yoga studio across the street from the site, said he was bothered by the height.

"I really don't want four stories," he said. "Three would be good, and also, again, architecturally it really has to fit in. I want to see this developed, but it really needs to be aesthetically (appropriate)."

Deb Karpfinger has owned the Flower Lady shop, across the street from the project, for 18 years.

"The things that I see being most important to this village area are, one, traffic flow, and two, parking," she said. "And then three: design aesthetics, so that we keep the integrity of the old-town Village of Wauwatosa."

She said that because the roads "twist and turn," some people avoid the Village altogether, "then if they do come here, and there's construction, and things are shut down, they just make a mental note, never go there."

She said that while the proposed building does include retail parking and underground parking for residents, she wanted more specifics.

"And I want it to be true," she added.

Karpfinger said the Village was already short of parking spaces, and the surface-level lot in the proposal wouldn't help much when retail employee parking was taken into account.

"Development's wonderful - we want business, we want people living here, and we want a viable community, but it's gotta work," she said. "We're in the planning process, and it would be really good to keep those things in mind and really get some commitment."

Parking is a prime concern, she said, as are the traffic complexities likely to arise from the construction itself.

Alderman Joel Tilleson, a member of the CDA, said the visit to the site was valuable.

"As we hear from the neighbors, we're getting … good feedback about their concerns," he said. "It's helped, it's helped for sure being in the backyards and putting it in perspective."

Tilleson said the height of the building and other matters were still being studied.

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