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Fed Approves Funds for Johnson Controls Site

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The “largest vacant lot in Riverwest” is in the news again. On November 22, US Senator Herb Kohl announced approval of federal funding for three major environmental initiatives in Milwaukee. Included is $300,000 to help clean up the former Johnson Controls site south of the corner of Bremen and Concordia Streets, once occupied by a battery manufacturing plant. Although Johnson Controls made a significant investment in removing contaminated soil from the almost 3-acre site, the 10-foot chain-link fence around the property and the groundwater monitoring wells visible inside the fence have been an eyesore for the Riverwest neighborhood. The grant money will help clean up the site to higher standards. Once that’s done, the plan is for Johnson Controls to convey the land to a developer or non-profit agency, allowing the construction of 22 single-family homes that will be energy efficient and feature “green” building designs which would help keep storm water out of sewers. “This is exciting news for the Riverwest neighborhood. A desolate industrial brown field will now be turned into a productive use that will fit within the tradition and fabric of the neighborhood,” Alderman Michael D’Amato said. Early in November, the City issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the creation of a planned development on the site. Johnson Controls, Inc. has agreed to work with the Milwaukee Department of City Development to influence the design of the site and the homes to be built on it. The land will be sold or transferred directly from Johnson Controls to the developer who submits the successful proposal for development of the site. The RFP calls for the development of 22 owner-occupied homes on the 2.8-acre site. The city stresses that they welcome inventive site designs that fit the context of the neighborhood. Building designs incorporating energy efficiency and “green design” are strongly encouraged. Other home design guidelines include: _ One and one-half to two and one-half stories. _ Preferably a minimum of 1,800 square feet. _ Two-car garages behind or toward the back of the house. _ Preferred exterior sidings include wood, masonry, or fiber cement (vinyl, aluminum, steel, masonite, or plywood siding materials are discouraged). The RFP further states that, “City approval will require that the final subdivision plan be consistent with good storm water management practices.” It calls for proposals to include the outline of an “innovative storm water management plan.” The project also encourages the developer to participate in the the City of Milwaukee’s Emerging Business Enterprise Program (EBEP). This program helps developers contract with small and emerging businesses to complete work on city-directed projects. Minimum goal for EBE particpation is 18 percent of the total budget. Developers are asked to include information in the RFP on the following areas: In lieu of a purchase price, the amount the developer will contribute to the cost of the environmental cleanup. A list of the development team’s composition and relevant experience. Description of how the development will be successfully implemented. Description of the developer’s plan to meet the City’s 18% EBE goal. The sources and uses of funds and pro forma income statement. The building plans proposed for the development site. The price of a completed home (or unit) including land, garage, service walks, landscaping, sewer and water laterals. Outline of a marketing plan. A project timetable. Proposals will be judged by DCD on the following criteria: Quality and attractiveness of the proposed development. Developer’s experience including experience with brownfield development. Financial capacity. Commitment to the EBE goals. Adherence to the development snd design guidelines described in the RFP Quality of construction. Price of a completed home. Strength of the marketing plan. Overall responsiveness to the RFP. Many Riverwest residents are anxious to see the area developed. However, one neighbor who lives adjacent to the property stated that he hoped that whoever is chosen to develop the site will consult with the neighborhood to get input and help to “inject neighborhood spirit into the plan.” Based on the value of existing homes in the Riverwest neighborhood, DCD expects the new subdivision to have a value of $4 million. An informational meeting for potential RFP respondents has been scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 1, 1:30 to 3 p.m. at the First Floor Board Room, 809 N. Broadway. At the meeting, a representative of Johnson Controls will summarize the site’s environmental conditions. DCD staff will explain regulatory requirements and the city’s published Principles of Urban Design. Proposals are due January 26, 2005. Copies of the Request for Proposals are available at www.mkedcd.org/realestate. For more information concerning the Dec. 1 meeting, contact James Sayers, Development Manager, at 286-5723, or email
by Jan Christensen / photo by V. Bushell