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Housing Development Delayed

by Belle Bergner

A Johnson Controls Inc. (JCI) property on the north end of Riverwest suffered a setback in its future development last month when Chicago-based Tandem Developers LLC pulled out, citing complications with the environmental contamination on the site. While there is no contamination on the surface at this point, JCI must remove the contaminants below the surface.
Tandem planned to build 26 single family and duplex properties on the 2.8 acre site south of E. Concordia Avenue between Bremen and Weil Streets, but recent tests indicated that the contamination in the southwest corner is a “hotspot” of chlorinated solvents that will take longer to resolve and will prevent any structure from being placed there in the short term. While this difficult section would still be developable for homes several years down the road, Tandem decided to focus their energies where they are more likely to get a quicker return on their investment with “The Edge” condo development on the Milwaukee River along Commerce Street.
Densely-packed clay soil prevents quicker cleanup techniques being used on the hotspot because there isn’t enough oxygen among the Brown Field Redux – Johnson Controls Lot Housing Plan Dropped – Garden Park will be dug up soil particles for the necessary oxidation reaction to occur for the cleanup, says Dennis Reis, an environmental consultant working for JCI on this project.
Reis says that the next steps are for JCI to remit a work plan to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the state agency that oversees all environmental regulations. The plan will explain how they plan to remove the contamination and demonstrate completion. Once that is accepted a developer can move forward. But who will it be now?
Riverwest residents might remember a heated discussion about this property a year ago. At that time, the Milwaukee Department of City Development (DCD) and a neighborhood committee narrowed down eligible developers to Tandem and General Capitol Group, Inc. When neighborhood input was solicited, the majority of residents wanted General Capitol’s plans, said Chris Johns, a Riverwest Neighborhood Association board member. But the city persuaded the committee to choose Tandem because of their track record in building similar single family home sites. At the time, Tandem had just finished a successful Brewer’s Hill project.
General Capital’s plans called for fewer homes, wider lots, emphasis on striving for a “Green Built Home” accreditation by the Green Building Council through energy efficiency, water conservation, and stormwater management installations. It also called for a green space on the hotspot corner that would help naturally attenuate the environmental contaminants. Chris Johns states that General Capital met with the DCD recently after Tandem pulled out to discuss options for their previously proposed development in light of the recent findings.
Andrea Rowe, Communications Manager for the DCD is confident that the city will have a developer who wants to work on this property, and is hopeful that they will know soon who that will be. “At least in the short term, this property will have to be a smallerscale development due to the hot spot issue, but on the positive side there is more opportunity for green space, for which the neighborhood expressed support during the last round of public meetings,” said Rowe.

Riverwest Currents online edition – July, 2006