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Prospect Mall Rendering

Where Will They Sleep? New Dorms on East Side

by Janice Christensen and Vince Bushell Image – Prospect Mall Area Design, architects rendering It won’t be in Riverwest. Althought three of the eight sites that submitted proposals for a dorm were in Riverwest, none were finalists. You may be relieved or disappointed, depending on your perspective. Alderman Nic Kovac is hoping to get open minded feedback on the three remaining locations under consideration. But he does think now is the time to talk about the specifics of the locations and that they have positive and negative points when weighed against the criteria that have been developed. See side bar at right. Kovac has said he does not favor any of the sites and that he and the public will have “more time till ou weigh in” on the subject after the presentations nd comments at the public meetings. But he does hink now is the time to talk about the specifics f the locations and that they have positive and egative points when weighed against the criteria that have been developed. UWM Dorm Location Criteria • Dorm location should support existing business and commercial development, or serve as a catalyst to spur additional business and commercial development nearby. • The dorm should be sited at a location that gives UWM students the option to use public transit to the greatest extent possible. • The dorm’s first floor should contain uses that activate the street and enhance the pedestrian realm, with a preference for retail uses available to the public. • The dorm should serve as a neighborhood icon and gateway from a design perspective. This means high-quality design, top-grade materials, and excellent landscaping. • The dorm should be a local leader in sustainable design and construction techniques, including the use of recycled materials, innovative stormwater management on site, and energy efficiency. • The dorm should be sited in a manner that minimizes conflict with nearby residential neighborhoods, and provides proximity to amenities that students seek. • An opportunity cost analysis for the site should reveal that a dorm is a relatively better use than other market-based development that is likely to occur at the site.   Kovac does not expect a consensus to choose any one location. He does hope to consider all groupsneighborhood, business, and the Universitybefore making a recomendation. When talking about students, dorms, location and the environment, there are some “hot potato” issues that come up. Often it is student behavior in the neighborhoods. UWM is being asked to improve on their record of dealing with inappropriate offcampus student behavior at any new location and existing dorms as well. Speaking of a “hot potato,” the Hometown site on the east bank of the Milwaukee River at North Avenue (old gas station and adjacent land), engages environmental groups because it is in the river corridor. Representatives of the Milwaukee River Work Group (MRWG), a coalition working to protect the river corridor, met with Barry Mandel from Mandel Group, owners of the Hometown site, and Jim Shields, architect for the project on Aug. 19. According to MRWG Coordinator Ann Brummitt, the newest version of the 700 bed proposal has some improvements over the concept design that was presented to the group last January. The new proposal utilizes a flattened “U” shape that lessens the river frontage. Most of the building is set back from the river while the ends of the “U” face the river. With this design less than onethird of the building faces the river. The building also has a green roof and a large courtyard, and provides good access to the river and trail below. Brummitt also reported that, “On the downside, [the proposed building] is still five stories tall – 55 to 57 feet.” Proposed code would mirror the current residential limit of 45 ft. MRWG members requested that the Mandel Group reduce the height of the end of the “U” shape nearest the river to the 45 foot limit. These zoning regulations are currently under study during a two-year period to determine the final zoning regulations for the area. At a meeting about the river protection Overlay District hosted by the Department of City Development on August 18, DCD suggested that the overlay have no height restrictions. MRWG members and Ald. Kovac were vocal in their disappointment with that and other parts of the presentation. DCD responded in an email to MRWG on August 23, backing down from their position and supporting the setback and height restrictions recommended at community workshops held by MRWG. An email from City Planner Bob Greenstreet and Assistant Planning DirectorVanessa Koster stated, “While these recommendations need to be legally defensible, we believe that following the discussions on Monday, the protection of the river is an important issue of public interest and that the recommendations as outlined in the workshops should proceed immediately through the public hearing process.” The developers agreed to explore the height reduction option, and to meet with the MRWG again soon. The Boulder Venture site is on Prospect Ave. between Ivanhoe and Kenilworth (the Prospect Mall parking lot). It is slightly closer to campus than the other locations. This site is within a block of the Kenilworth Place dormitory and the Peck School of the Arts located on Kenilworth. It is on the present route of the campus shuttle, as is the Hometown site. It is hard to think of any objections to this site, though we are sure to hear them. It fits the model of massing the off campus dorms which has its proponents and detractors. Phelan Development, LLC and Towne Investments have proposed a site on the southeast corner of North Farwell and East Royal Place (1744 N. Farwell Ave.) In the past the Water Tower Landmark Trust neighborhood association voiced strong concerns about a student housing development in the area. They pushed for upper class housing at the Kenilworth site. A large freshman dorm at either Farwell/Royal or Prospect Mall could meet with oppositon from this group. One plus for the Hometown site is that it could result in improved connections to the river valley. Ald. Kovac mentioned that benefit in his statement concerning proposed development of this area that was printed in the Currents during the campaign. His January 2008 position is reprinted in its entirety on this page. Kovac On Hometown Developemnt Reprinted from Riverwest Currents, Jan, 2008, during the aldermanic primary campaign. by Nik Kovac There’s a lot of public interest in the Hometown site, and there should be. It’s at the intersection of an important commercial/transportation corridor and a vital, unique environmental corridor. It is an encouraging sign for Milwaukee’s civic future that so many local stakeholders have already organized around such a pivotal piece of real estate, even before a specific development proposal has been advanced. The Milwaukee River Work Group (MRWG) is a model for pro-active, grass-roots community planning. Such efforts are always more successful and influential when they happen early – so that they can define the debate instead of reacting to it. Its goals are clear: preserve and improve a publicly accessible greenway along the river, from North Avenue to the city limits, for the sake of recreation and wildlife. The East Side North Avenue Business Improvement District (BID) has also become increasingly organized, and their goals for the blocks near the river are clear: mixed used development encouraging increased daytime pedestrian activity and related amenities. These goals really should be compatible, even synergistic. A contemplative walk along the river might lead to a pleasant stroll down North Avenue, and vice versa. The Mandel Group owns the site, and of course would like to build something there that will turn a profit. They have a long track record of building in Milwaukee, and are committed to this city. That means they should share – at least in broad strokes – the visions and interests of the MRWG and the BID. As alderman, I will actively encourage all three of these groups to discover overlapping goals and common ground. If and when this proves impossible, I will be an honest, transparent, and inclusive arbiter. City government will have leverage in that location, because the land is currently zoned industrial, and Mandel’s plans for that site most likely will not be. The zoning of that land will also be changing this year, regardless of what Mandel proposes, thanks to the efforts of the MRWG. An interim overlay district is currently being studied, which will create setback and height restrictions for anything built along the river. I will make every effort to ensure that those restrictions are reasonable, and that they become law. The scale of any plans for that site must respect the public’s strong interest in a successful river greenway. It’s worth noting that the site directly abuts Wisconsin Paperboard Corporation, a 24-7 industrial recycling operation that employs over 150 people earning living wages. Whatever is built there should not compromise the efficient operation of that economic engine for this city. Because Mandel has a long-term interest in the prosperity of this city and the many properties they own inside it, I think they can be convinced to include within the project an inviting public access to the trails on our river’s eastern bank. That will make the greenway, the city, and their project more successful, vibrant, and sustainable.