Dave Reid

UWM Dorm is a Hot Topic Among 3rd District Neighbors

By - Aug 1st, 2008 11:15 pm
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RiverView Dorm

RiverView Dorm

On July 29th a meeting of 3rd district residents was held to discuss the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s (“UWM”) recent Request for Proposal (“RFP”) to build a new student dorm with 500 to 700 beds.  Alderman Nik Kovac attempted to set the tone by reminding the audience that “overall we’re lucky to have UWM as a neighbor”.  He was also quick to point out that UWM hasn’t announced any specific sites yet and that he’d like the meeting to focus on general guidelines to lead the discussion with UWM.  Residents representing a long list of neighborhoods organizations including the Brady St Area Association, Cambridge Woods Neighborhood Association, East Village Association, Mariners Neighborhood Association, Murray Hill Neighborhood Association, Riverside Park Neighborhood Association, Riverwest Neighborhood Association, Greenwich Village Neighborhood Association, Prospect Ave. Association and Milwaukee River Neighbors were in attendance.

RoseMary Oliveira of the Riverwest Neighborhood Association gave a short presentation about her experience with the RiverView dorm project.  She called out former Alderman Mike D’Amato claiming that “early on the citizens were locked out of that process” and that “we now have an alderman who’s willing to work with us which is different than the last time”.  She then characterized the RiverView site as “parkland” and although some of the site was zoned “park”, this was misleading as the site was in fact a contaminated brownfield.  These accusations and mis-characterizations did little to add to the discussion and took away from the groups efforts.

Ann Brummitt, Coordinator of the Milwaukee River Work Group, spoke about the group’s concerns with the development occurring within the primary environmental corridor along the Milwaukee River.  To alleviated these concerns the group was involved in the creation of the The Milwaukee River Greenway Corridor Interim Study Overlay District (“MROD”) and are pushing for building restrictions along the top of the bluff.  Specifically they want a 50 foot setback from the top of the bluff with a 45 foot height limitation on new construction.  She expressed that the Milwaukee River Work Group’s interest in the UWM dorm project concerns the possibility of development encroaching in to the “view-shed” along the river.

Alderman Kovac took the opportunity to gather community input on a variety of topics related to UWM.

  • He asked the residents if they wanted UWM to cap their enrollment?  Approximately half of the residents wanted UWM to cap enrollment.
  • He asked the residents neighboring UWM if they wanted new dorms to be built closer to campus or throughout the city?  The residents voted for throughout the city.
  • He asked the residents from neighborhoods further from UWM if they wanted new dorms to be built closer to campus or throughout the city?  The residents generally voted for closer to UWM.
  • He asked the residents if they wanted UWM to expand the Engineering school in downtown Milwaukee?  Although this wasn’t specific to the meeting’s topic it was interesting because it was the only question that received unanimous support.

As the only question that found consensus didn’t relate to this RFP, these questions emphasized the difficulty of projects like this and that rarely will you obtain agreement on a specific design or location.  Despite Alderman Kovac’s assertion that he didn’t intend to get into specific locations, Sura Faraj presented a list of rumored possible sites.

  • “Hometown”
  • The Tracks
  • Heinemann’s Commissary
  • Prospect Mall
  • N. Farwell Ave. near Brady St.
  • On Humbldt near Center St.
  • Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital
  • Riverworks
  • Jessica’s on Capitol
  • Lena’a on Capitol
  • Maryland Avenue School

When the discussion turned to the reuse of the soon to be vacant Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital, Alderman Kovac reminded the audience that “we can’t just be against dorms we need to be for something”.  Additionally he pointed out that Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital and the Maryland Avenue School site won’t be part of this RFP because UWM intends for this dorm to open prior to these sites becoming available.  The discussion didn’t get to far into specifics of each site as was Alderman Kovac’s hope but as this process moves into the next phase the debate is sure to heat up.

If you’d like to weigh in on the list of sites, please leave a comment.

Categories: Real Estate

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