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Church Street residents not pleased with Wauwatosa apartment plan

Nov. 14, 2012

A four-story apartment project proposed for the corner of Underwood and Harmonee avenues in the Village drew criticism last week at a meeting of the Community Development Authority.

Residents of Church Street, on the west side of the project site, expressed alarm at the size of the proposed building at 1463 Underwood Ave., and said it would affect their property values and their quality of life.

Kevin Pulz said he was "caught off guard" by the plan, which he claimed would put a stark wall just four feet from his backyard, and would allow people living above to stare down at children playing there.

"It's a poor choice with what we in the community want for quality of life," he said, adding that the plan is "completely out of character with the neighborhood."

Disagreement on the plan

The city-owned site was left vacant with the building of a new fire station a couple of years ago at 1601 Underwood Ave., immediately north of the site.

The city issued a request for proposals, and considered three plans. The proposal for a $7.3 million, four-story apartment complex, called Ardor, was put forward by Phelan Development and Wired Development and selected by the Community Development Authority as the preferred project.

The project would include 36 apartments, ground-level retail space, underground parking for tenants, and surface parking for retail customers, according to the plan.

At last week's meeting, the authority's chairman, Alderman Craig Wilson, emphasized that no final decisions had been made yet, and the selection of a preferred proposal did not mean it was the final proposal, nor would not be subject to change.

But residents were not put at ease.

Mark Werner said the historic character of the neighborhood seems to have been lost in the plan.

"We want to protect that … as something that is honored," he said. He reminded the panel that four homes already had been razed in the building of the fire station.

City Attorney Alan Kesner said the historic district designation applies to homes on Church Street, not homes on Menomonee River Parkway, just a few feet from the project site, and that the four homes that were destroyed were not part of the designated as historic.

Big depreciation

Werner also objected to the size of the proposed structure. With a four-story building on the site, "the sun wouldn't come up until 10 o'clock in your backyard," he said.

Resident Katie Lalonde, a homeowner adjacent to the project, said she was worried about a decline in property values, an impeded view, and dumpsters that may be located outside such a building.

"It's clear the committee has a lot of work to do to find common ground between the interests of the neighboring homeowners and the city's interest in economic development," Alderman Joel Tilleson, also a member of the authority, said in an email.

"That discussion will certainly have to include the developer that the committee selects and his ability to bridge those interests.

"The neighbors who spoke to the committee are passionate about their concerns and provided interesting perspectives for the committee to consider. We welcome their participation."

The authority did not take action on the project at last week's meeting.

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