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Riverwest Neighborhood Association News

The Riverwest Neighborhood Association meeting covered several important development and safety issues last month, as well as accepting nominations for its first slate of elected board members. At the October 14 meeting, Don Sargent of NMIDC/Riverworks reported that he has met with most of the business owners on Holton Street as part of the Holton Street INRS (Integrated Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy) plan as funded through the city’s CDBG office. Seventy-nine of 110 properties have been inventoried. LISC and Miller Architects are working on design plans for the Wegner Door building. Sargent is working on a draft to be submitted to the city concerning a plan for Center Street from Humboldt to Palmer as part of the National Main Street program. The key elements of the Main Street program are promotion, design, and economic restructuring within business districts. A motion was made to support the proposal that Center Street nodal development from Humboldt to Palmer be the number one priority item of the Holton Street INRS plan. A final vote on the motion will be held at the November meeting. Sargent also reported the good news that the Common Council has just passed an ordinance that requires 24-hour establishments to be licensed (similar to liquor licenses), which will affect gas stations and convenience stores. Guardians of Greenspace Marina Lee reported that work on Snail’s Crossing (Baby Park) is underway. $1351 has been donated and $855 has been spent on trees. Trees have also been donated, and 24 bushes and trees were planted on Artwalk weekend. Mario Costantini of La Lune is designing benches and fencing to be installed over the winter. A bench design competition is underway via the Riverwest Artists Association. Alderman Mike D’Amato reported that the city has approved about $47,000 for the park redesign project. A motion was passed that RNA supports the working draft of the Kilbourn Park lease between COA Youth & Family Centers and the city (County Supervisor Willie Johnson, Jr., abstained from the vote). Plans include a Community Board for local oversight of the park. Development News Don Krause and John Tomlinson presented a proposal for a new Art Bar Cafe & Gallery at 724 E. Burleigh (formerly Sweet Black Coffee and Lava Java). They own the building and plan to start with a bar and expand to a full food service offering breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Expected opening is sometime between December and February. It was suggested that they have a meeting with near neighbors. Alderman D’Amato will send a notice to neighbors within a 2-3 block radius. No RNA members in attendance expressed objection to the plan. The Riverwest Investment Co-op (RIC) will be closing soon on their first property located at 2543 N. Holton Street. Preferred membership shares are being offered at $100 per share. Once 10 shares have been purchased, full membership status ($1000) is conferred. Sweat equity is also in the works, especially in light of the new property. Vince Bushell reported an unexpected snag with Bella Luna’s plan for the former Biopack property on Humboldt & Center. There is a 1955 deed restriction that requires the front of the property to remain an undeveloped green space. Bella Luna’s proposal includes using the front space as a landscaped parking lot and seating area. All 42 nearby property owners must agree to this change. The city has sent them letters, and of those, ten have responded and two have said no to the proposed change. Alderman D’Amato stated that the city will follow up with those who are objecting. A motion passed that RNA write a letter to all negative and non-respondents explaining the proposal and that the neighborhood association is in support of it. Watertower Park Trust & Property Taxes Ald. D’Amato reported that the Watertower group is concerned about rising property taxes and is investigating properties that are tax exempt as a possible solution. The group has requested a list of tax-exempt properties from the Assessor’s office. Currently about 30% of properties are tax exempt in the city, including hospitals. Crime and Safety Jim Wilson of the YMCA CDC attended the monthly meeting held at the 5th District Police Station. Residents are concerned about roaming groups of youth, drug activity, and a rash of crime around Keefe & Auer. Alderman D’Amato stated that he will set up meetings with the new Police Chief and neighborhood groups within his district. D’Amato was also informed that trash cans are needed at Holton & Center and on Holton & Burleigh. Bylaw Amendments Jan Christensen reported that the bylaws do not state that motions must be held for a final vote until the next meeting. Discussion followed, and for the record this procedure was agreed to by all present: “RNA members may vote on motions during the meeting in which they are brought up unless one or more attendees requests that the motion be held until the next scheduled meeting.” RNA Elections Candidates were nominated for RNA officer and board positions. All positions are from January-December 2004, except the Vice-Chair is from January 2004-December 2005. Elections will be held at the November meeting. Approved candidates are: Chairperson – Nancy Centz and George Singleton. Vice-Chair – Jeff Barke. Secretary – Lorraine Jacobs (there will still be a rotating Notetaker). Treasurer – Tim Vertz. At Large Board Members – Self Wise Allah, Sonya Jongsma-Knauss, Tess Reiss, and Shawn Smart. The next RNA meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, November 11, at the YMCA CDC office at 604 E. Center St.