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City of Wauwatosa panel seeks council input on Village project

Fire station remnant parcel to get broader attention

Feb. 20, 2013

The retail and residential project proposed for the fire station remnant parcel at 1463 Underwood Ave. will go before the Common Council as the Community Development Authority seeks broader input on size, financing and other issues.

The council will consider the project as a Committee of the Whole on March 5.

The proposal under consideration is a three-story building that would occupy an expanded site that would take in the fire station parcel and the building occupied by the Cody and Co. hairstyling salon at 1457 Underwood, directly south.

Through months of meetings, many featuring passionate resident input, the proposal has been scaled back from a four-story building containing 36 units, first-floor retail and 72 underground parking spaces. The new plan would have 30 units in three floors, with a smaller "jewel box" entry, among other changes.

Objections from residents of Church Street, on the opposite side of the block, forced the reconsideration of the size and height of the project, even as Sean Phelan of Phelan Development and Blair Williams of Wired Properties, the preferred developers, have said a smaller project would be less financially feasible.

Development Director Paulette Enders put the financing "gap" for the new plan - the difference between what the developers and their lenders can provide and what the project requires - at $1.8 million.

Enders said the only way the city could provide such funding would be through tax-incremental financing, but added, "I would have a difficult time recommending to the Common Council $1.8 million in TIF financing."

Some members of the Common Council have been restive in recent weeks over providing funding for private parking in TIF district No. 6, at Innovation Park.

The Village Business Improvement District issued a statement strongly supporting the project in its current form, citing the importance of the expanded site, a public parking provision, a "strong mixed-use development with retail and residential components," and an allowance for traffic configuration changes.

Jim Plaisted, executive director of the BID, emphasized the importance of the expanded site, writing that it "has the potential to become a signature, gateway entrance to the Village area."

"Their massing plan features a strong retail presence to be included on the corner that will become one of the most signature in the district," he wrote.

"It's lost opportunity not to combine the sites," he said in an interview.

Alderman Craig Wilson, who has led many of the CDA meetings, proposed the hearing with the full council, which, down the road, when the project has matured, will have to give it final approval.

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