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Twindominiums on Center Street

by Sonya Jongsma Knauss

Bob Schaeffer and Dennis Rehberg are relatively good natured about the hurdles they say the city had them jump through in order to develop the property at Center east of Humboldt. While referring to it as trial by fire, and calling the first three attempts at beginning construction as the “hole from hell,” they admit that it’s all part of the learning curve. Their project, the “twindominiums” at the east end of Center Street and Humboldt Boulevard, will soon be some of the pricier real estate in Riverwest. With a tree-top level view to the west down Center Street from one condo (photo above) and a view of the trees overlooking the river from the other (photo at right), each will sell for an estimated $210-220,000. The 2684 and 2686 N. Humboldt condos are “on slab” construction on a small plot of land with barely an inch to spare. They’ve made pretty good use of the space. “We’re going to call ourselves Shoebox Realty,” one of them jokes in a recent tour of the almost-complete condos. This is the first development project in Riverwest for their company, Shorewood Homes. While we’re talking, the big Kohler truck pulls up with two whirlpools for each condo. The two master suites in each condo feature whirlpool baths with what Schaeffer describes as “killer faucets,” which had not yet been installed. The top floor of each condo also features a pair of skylights, giving the space a bright, open feel. Both condos have three potential bedrooms and three-and-a-half baths. The large garages on the first floor are adjacent to a living space with a large room and bath, suitable to be used as a third bedroom, an office space, or a rental studio. The second floor has a sizeable kitchen with pantry and living area. The third floor houses the master suites. Schaeffer and Rehberg are development partners who have been buying up several of the increasingly scarce open, buildable properties in Riverwest. For this location, they pulled permits and were cleared to begin construction on April 29. A day after they began to pour cement, they got a notice from the city that the permit was not longer valid. Cataloguing a list of problems that sound like miscommunication between different parts of the city’s development bureaucracy, the men say they lost almost five months of construction time. But they’re moving full steam ahead now, and hope to be marketing the 2000-square-foot condos by spring. “We should be able to do three of these a year,” Schaeffer says optimistically. “This one is taking us almost a year because we were not familiar with how the city, in all its infinite wisdom, works.” Just a hint of sarcasm there. But he’s also appreciative of what he’s learned along the way. They say they worked extensively with Ald. Mike D’Amato on the design for the project. When asked about his involvement, D’Amato commented, “The design didn’t even have a door on the front when I saw it!” (which is against city code). He considers his role to be one of encouraging development to be aesthetically appropriate. “There are a number of things people can build as a matter of right on private property,” he said. “My job is to help make sure developers do neighborhood-appropriate work.” Shorewood Homes also has a project underway at Pierce and Hadley and is making plans to build on at least two other lots in the neighborhood.
by Sonya Jongsma Knauss