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Connector or Divider?

Beer City

By the late 1990s, after over a century of industrial usage, a stretch of vacated properties waited as silent sentinels along Commerce Street, watching over the frontier between the Riverwest neighborhood and points south.

In 1999, the city of Milwaukee Redevelopment Authority (RACM) requested a plan to revitalize this blighted area along the river. The 102-page Beerline “B” Master Plan and Neighborhood Code was born.

“We bought these [our own] condos based on a code. Those bureaucrats have decided to ignore the code.”

Michael Holloway lives on the fourth floor of the 24-unit River Court condominiums along N. Commerce Street. It’s a gray, Ushaped structure with a cosmopolitan view up and down the river. Holloway spoke at the October RACM meeting on behalf of 88 “Concerned Citizens of Commerce” opposed to The Edge development plans, which then called for 150 units—well beyond the 75 units the code calls for on the 1.87 acre site.

By the early 2000s, much of the construction of architecturally distinctive condominium units has been completed, though one puzzle piece remains undeveloped but cleared for construction. In October 2005, a fight broke out over approval of the construction of Tandem Development’s The Edge condos, a two-building, 133-unit development just northeast of the Holton Street Bridge (and its new offspring, the Marsupial Bridge, straddling its mother’s bulky trusses). While the city ultimately approved the plan for The Edge after the developer offered some design compromises, some neighbors remain frustrated—with the plan that increases the density of their neighborhood, and with the political process they feel failed them.

Holloway said he and neighbors started investigating what was going on with The Edge development after they saw the Union Point building going up on the triangle of property at 2080 N. Commerce St. With 72 units (68 percent of which have been pre-sold to date), it is about 375 percent beyond the unit/area density specifications of the 1999 code of 40 units per acre.

The approved plans for The Edge call for 133 units, 77 percent beyond the 1999 density specifications. Sales of these condo units has not yet commenced. A grand opening party marking the beginning of sales that had been scheduled for Feb. 16 is being rescheduled for early March on the site.

The development as portrayed by the Beerline Plan (Top of the page). The Actual Union Point as it is being built today (Below).

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