A residential development proposal for State Street just west of Walgreens that met a hostile reception at last month's Plan Commission meeting came back in a radically modified form and was easily approved Monday night.
Wangard Partners had proposed a 126-unit apartment complex at the site, comprised of house-like structures with matching rooflines and garage and surface parking.
Working with a new architect, Wangard came back with a proposal of higher density — 169 units on the 9.4 acre site — and a mixture of flat and peaked roofs, with more parking hidden. The project, estimated at $24 million, would have four-story, 32- and 58-unit "bookend" buildings that have flat-roof overhangs, balconies and varied materials and depths reminiscent of The Enclave development across the street.
"I think this is a 100 percent improvement," said Alderman Dennis McBride, who is not a member of the commission but represents the district that includes the site. "And I'm very happy to see it."
McBride had led the opposition to the first Wangard proposal, which he said had an appearance more appropriate to Brookfield or Muskego. He praised the developer for immediately responding to the city's concerns, and working with him and Mayor Kathy Ehley to come up with an improved plan.
"Every time a new proposal was put forward it got better and better and better," he said.
"This is how it should work," McBride said, of development. "We realized we had an important property, we realized we have a desirable community, we wanted excellence, and we strove for that and we got something a lot better."
"Congratulations on a great design," said commission member Jody Lowe.
Brett Haney, of HSI Properties, developer of The Enclave, also praised the design. "Everything that happens in this neighborhood we're aware of, and take very seriously....I think the design has moved in the right direction. Right now there's a vacant lot full of rubble across the street from us, so we view this as a very positive impact on the neighborhood."
Haney's partner, Ryan Schultz, had been critical of the original plan at the July meeting.
Gary Kandziora, a resident of Martin Drive, close to the development site, said he was concerned about the placement of vents that will exchange air in the planned enclosed parking area that may face his house, and asked about contamination at the site left by former industrial users. Wayne Wiertzema, president of Wangard, said there was flexibility on the placement of the vents, and said the developer was working with the state Department of Natural Resources to address contamination.
Processing a concern
Alderwoman Cheryl Berdan said she supported the proposal, but had a concern about process. Typically, a proposal moves from the Plan Commission to the Community Development Committee with a recommendation for or against; this project was tabled and never made it to the committee, which is, unlike the Plan Commission, made up of elected officials.
"My concern was that, as part of the elected body, the Community Development Committee, we didn't have say in whether that project should've been sent back or not," she said. The city has begun an effort to study its development process, in particular the relationship and functions of the Plan Commission and the Community Development Committee.
Much of the discussion centered on the Schoonmaker Reef, an ancient fossilized bluff that abuts the property to the north. The reef is internationally know, and both preserving it and leaving it accessible to researchers were goals of the project, said Stewart Wangard, CEO and chairman of Wangard Partners.
Another goal of the project was moving the housing units as far as possible from the Grede Foundry, which is on the south side of the development site. Landscaping and a private drive along the development are partially designed as buffers.
Wiertzema said the developer would work with the city and possibly seek city funding in the form of tax-incremental financing.
The project will be considered by the Community Development Committee next month.
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