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Large North Avenue apartment project advances in Wauwatosa

Four-story building would be a new thing in that part of the city

Jan. 16, 2014

A city panel gave unanimous preliminary approval to a four-story, 24-unit apartment building that would be the largest market-rate residential development on North Avenue within many blocks.

The project, between 84th and 85th streets and on the north side of North, would replace two aging eight-unit buildings and offer one-bedroom apartments with monthly rents of $1,000 to $1,200, said Erich Schwenker, a principal in developer Cardinal Capital Management Inc.

"To me, this proposal, this application, is really about how Wauwatosa is changing," said Alderman Jeff Roznowski, who worked with the developers to introduce the project.

The proposed building is about as tall as the Locker's Point building, which houses Colectivo coffee house at the corner of North Avenue and 92nd Street. And its proposed design shows porches and facades of different materials and different depths in a style similar in spirit to, for example, The Enclave off State Street.

Talking with neighbors

The proposal has met with resistance. At a public meeting Thursday organized by Roznowski, residents objected to it at that meeting as too large for the site, and out of keeping with the small two-story homes surrounding it.

With high balconies facing homes, neighbors complained they would lose privacy, and said the mass of the building would cast their homes into shadow. Others said they feared property values would drop.

But Schwenker asserted property values would rise, presumably by being near a more valuable property. He said the construction cost of the building was $3.7 million, and said it would add about $3 million in assessed valuation, which would work out to an addition of $60,000 to $70,000 to the city's tax rolls.

By contrast, the two buildings the project would remove are worth less than $800,000 together, and bring in taxes of less than $19,000, city property records show.

Satisfying changes

Neighborhood acceptance to the proposal turned this week as a result to changes offered by the developer.

After meeting with the neighbors, particularly Ryan and Elise Hetzel and Mike Atols, who live in the houses next door to the site, architect Ed Haydin of Arcint Architecture altered the plan, including a reduction of the back porches to so-called Juliet porches, without depth.

Schwenker also said the detailing and varied materials of the front of the building would wrap around to the back, which had been plainer.

A garage owned by the Hetzels, which sits on the property line and provides part of the barrier between the properties, would be removed. Schwenker, when asked if he would be building them a new garage, said "I'm going to take care of it."

In addition, the fence between the neighbors and the project site would be eight feet high, one of many modifications made at Monday's Plan Commission meeting.

A shadow study commissioned by the developer showed the homes being covered by shade only in the last month or two of the year, and, in any case, not worse than a neighboring house would provide.

The Hetzels and Atols agreed that their concerns were met.

Schwenker also said he would see that an autistic individual who lives in the existing building could be housed nearby, which is close to his parents.

Other concerns

But other people had other complaints that remain.

Those concerned include some who lived on the south side of North, whose view would be changed; residents of 84th and 85th streets, who worried about parking and traffic flow (the building provides 46 parking spaces for the 24 apartments); and a woman who lives in one of the buildings to be demolished, who criticized Cardinal's property management practices.

The Plan Comission approved a zoning map amendment for the project, and gave it preliminary plan approval.

It will be the subject of a public hearing before the Common Council March 4, and be reviewed by the Community Development Committee March 11. Both meetings offer opportunities for community comment.

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