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RNA Considers Development Proposals

by Eryn Moris

Nearly 30 people gathered at the YMCA CDC office for the April Riverwest Neighborhood Association (RNA) meeting to hear proposals by representatives of two businesses and one developer interested in buying the long-vacant Biopak building on Humboldt and Center. After introductions and an invocation by acting chair Jerry Patzwald, announcements were made, including a plea by a resident of the 3300 block of Bremen hoping to rectify the abuse of parking regulations on that block by Milwaukee Temps, a small business located on Mitchell Street (see accompanying article). Residents who wish to express their feelings on the subject are encouraged to contact Alderman D’Amato of the Third Aldermanic District at City Hall Room 205, 200 E. Wells St., Milwaukee, WI, 53202; Alderman Sanchez of the Twelfth Aldermanic District at the same address; or Milwaukee Temps, attention Sal Carrao at 546 W. Historic Mitchell St., Milwaukee, WI 53204. Potential buyers of the Biopak building just north of Center on Humboldt were presented to the RNA. The city is selling the building, and chose the three from eight proposals by businesses and developers over the past few months. Greg Shelko of the Redevelopment Authority of the Department of City Development explained that a number of factors were taken into consideration when narrowing down the number of proposals. Each proposal needed to consider the uses of the building that were preferred by neighborhood residents, the benefits to the community and the suitability of the project to the neighborhood; as well as the budget and financial planning for the development, the past record and experience of the business or developer, and the offering price for the building. The first presentation to the group was by Todd Hutchison. Hutchison proposed the east side of the building, adjacent to Gordon Park, be renovated into 12 two-story, two-bedroom condominiums. Drawings presented to the group showed a proposed third-story addition and first-story parking for the residents of the condominiums, which would sell for $155,000 each. The other section of the property, a one-story building visible from Humboldt Boulevard, would be divided into studio spaces available for rent by commercial artists and tradesmen. The second proposal was familiar to members of the RNA who attended the February meeting. Russ Davis, owner of Bella Luna Pasta, presented the group with detailed drawings of a proposed manufacturing facility, retail store, and restaurant. The lawn in front of the restaurant would be landscaped to include patio seating and a 15-stall parking lot. This operation would replace the existing Bella Luna factory and retail store on Commerce Street, and would add 10 to 15 new employees to Bella Luna’s staff. The third proposal, by George Salvat of AgWorks, a food science business incubator, proposed renovating the building into a “community kitchen.” The food preparation facility would be certified by the Departments of Health and Agriculture, and would be available for rent hourly by small businesses, caterers, or individuals needing a professional grade, certified facility to prepare their products. The kitchen would not only provide the equipment needed by small food manufacturers, but also cold and dry storage if needed. It was suggested that the last two proposals might be combined so that Bella Luna’s factory may include a community kitchen available for rent. Davis agreed to consider the suggestion. At the end of the meeting, a motion was made, seconded, and unanimously agreed upon, stating that the RNA favored the proposal made by Bella Luna Pasta. The recommendation was made with the request that the wall of the building facing Gordon Park be made more attractive. The RNA also encourages collaboration between Bella Luna and AgWorks. In other RNA news: The RNA unanimously decided to express their support of the addition of bike lanes along Holton Street, made possible by a CMAQ grant. The RNA also supports planting more trees along Holton St. Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 5 – May 2003
by Eryn Moris