Rob Vosters

Bay View responds to Alterra’s proposal

By - Apr 13th, 2010 04:00 am
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The southwest view of Alterra’s Bay View bakery design (image courtesy of Alterra)

On Monday night, residents of Bay View met with Alterra Coffee Roasters co-owner Lincoln Fowler and city representatives to ask questions and voice their concerns about Alterra’s recently unveiled proposal to renovate the former Marine Bank building in Bay View into an expanded bakery headquarters and retail coffee shop.

As the conference room at the Bay View Public Library swelled to capacity, Fowler elaborated on the project’s early and unexpected attention after submitting their initial application to the Department of City Development, and also described tentative plans to turn the building into a mixed use facility.

The only opinions captured by local media prior to Monday night’s meeting were from competing neighborhood coffee shop owners who are critical of Alterra’s desire to use city-assisted Industrial Revenue Bonds in order to finance the new bakery location. But as Jim Scherer of the Economic Development Commission explained, the bonds are a risk-free (for the city) instrument through which area businesses can borrow money at a lower interest rate due to the federal tax-free status of the bonds.

This 2-3 percent reduction in their effective rate translates into hundreds of thousands of dollars of savings on Alterra’s $7.8 million financing request, which will encompass four projects in Milwaukee, Shorewood and Grafton.

After the floor was turned over to residents’ questions, Fowler excitedly put most concerns about the project to rest. He indicated the project would create 20 new bakery positions while also consolidating the 40 existing bakery jobs from their current bakery headquarters within the recently-opened Humboldt Avenue location.

When asked by County Supervisor Marina Dmitrijevic how the new storefront would interact with the many transit stops surrounding the somewhat busy intersection at Lincoln and Kinnickinnic, Fowler expressed his desire to transform the area into a much more pedestrian friendly environment.

Questions then turned to the perceived threat that the project presents to existing Bay View coffee shops, including Wild Flour Bakery, Sven’s and Anodyne. Fowler noted  that not all coffee shops feel threatened; Stone Creek even posted a welcome note on the Alterra website. More to the point of concern, Fowler stated that the shop’s viability would be threatened by a lack of community engagement, thus meetings like Monday’s would serve to clarify and reinforce the connection between Alterra and Bay View residents. But, in the end, everyone in the community gets to spend their dollars as they see fit, so each and every business owner in Bay View will need to raise their game in order to earn the support of consumers.

After a brief and all-too-typical discussion about parking concerns, several area business owners and neighborhood supporters voiced their support for the project. Citing the need for new investment in the neighborhood in order to add eyes on the street and generally improve the commercial corridor, business owner after business owner praised Alterra’s willingness to invest in Bay View during such economic crossroads.

The proposed Alterra Bakery and Café  yielded near unanimous approval from last night’s crowd, and afterward Alderman Tony Zielinski touted the shop’s ability to increase foot traffic along Kinnickinnic Avenue, which will economically benefit other neighborhood business and also help  reduce crime in the area. Zielisnki then announced his support for Alterra’s proposal when it comes before the Board of Zoning Appeals on May 20th.

Although many steps are left before it’s a done deal, just about every resident left Monday’s meeting content to know  that their community may soon have an Alterra like no other that they can call their own.

Categories: News, Urban Ideas

0 thoughts on “Bay View responds to Alterra’s proposal”

  1. Anonymous says:

    As a Bay View resident I’m excited…I’m just hoping that Stone Creek (I’m a Stone Creek loyalist), Wildflower and Alterra will play nicely togther. In my part of Bay View, while the Starbucks and Annodyne are a few blocks apart, they seem to coexist nicely.

    Hopefully this will be the start of a revitalization that will spread to the other parts of KK.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Altera could be a very cool addition to the area.

    Any chance that Alderman Zielinski might one day give us constituents a heads up before a project has momentum?

  3. Anonymous says:

    I think they’ll be able to coexist quite well. People tend to be pretty devoted to their favorite coffee shop, so, if anything, Alterra will simply bring more Alterra fans down to Bay View rather than take away customers from other coffee shops.

    Blaine, at the meeting Lincoln Fowler and Alderman Zielinski indicated they first discussed the project about two months ago. Fowler explained that at that time they didn’t really have anything to tell the public since the idea was basically just, “hey, what if we put a coffee shop in there?”

    The reason it seems like this wasn’t explained to the public is because Alterra’s thinking was that once they were able to secure funding for the four projects described in the bond request, then they’d come before the Board of Zoning Appeals to request a special use permit. Somewhere in there the city misinterpreted what Alterra was planning to do with the space, which is why it quickly shifted from only a bakery headquarters into bakery/retail.

    If anything, the project lacked momentum when it was first announced — the only articles about the project after it was first announced were solidly against Alterra. That coverage didn’t take into account the public’s sizable support for Alterra’s plan, which became evident at the community meeting.

    Thanks for commenting, both of you!

  4. Anonymous says:

    The revitalization had already started. Stone Creek was the first cool business to open up on that deteriorated KK/Lincoln corner years ago. That was a risk, and look what happened. 🙂

  5. Anonymous says:

    Gretchen:

    Boulevard Theatre moved into this deteriorated neighborhood 25 years ago before any of the current businesses you now enjoy around KK/Lincoln. Boulevard Theatre has been named by the Mayor’s office as a key component to the Bay View “rebirth.”

    This small theatre worked for years with a dilapidated George Webb’s across the street and some pretty rough bars in the area. Not to mention various drug-houses and other less than wonderful neighborhood personalities.
    Because Boulevard was able to make a go of it here, Cafe Lulu was drawn to this area which then attracted Taqueria Azteca (now closed) which helped attract other smaller shops. This momentum began to draw larger businesses, such as the now sadly-defunct Schwartz Bookstores, which the area would not support and many other businesses–some of which have stayed and many which have either closed or relocated.
    Stone Creek, who are great neighbors, btw, opened up less than a decade ago. Boulevard has been in the neighborhood for a quarter of a century. And 25 years ago, this neighborhood was really a risk.
    There were no fancy bars, restaurants, and the street traffic was either attending the Boulevard or on it’s way to another destination past KK & Lincoln.
    (Insert Smiley Face Icon Here).

  6. Anonymous says:

    First , let me express I am an Alterra fan. I typically enjoy what they bring to each location they decide to renovate, lease, own etc. Second, I understand this means jobs and opportunity for Bayview.
    But I think the decision at the bay view location is a huge mistake. This spot is crucial retail space for the neighborhood. To have a single coffee shop and a Bakery distribution point on this busy intersection is rather daft. Not to mention bakery trucks going in and out on howell…not exactly a community feel or great for traffic. think about it – semi backing up to the dock bay on howell.. not to well planned. Bay view needs more retail opportunity and this is missing the mark. How many more small businesses could be here at this location if the development was designed for that …my guess 8-10. BayView has many other warehouse type buildings that would suit their needs and has other dev support – i.e Horny Goat…why not renovate / build new on one of these?
    As a resident of Bay View I wish to see it thrive, but I dont believe allowing this project is a smart long term plan. what happens when alterra moves out?

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