Bait and Switch?
One building was presented, but another is being built. Ald. Bauman's proposal will end such practices.
The long running conflict between Ald. Robert Bauman and Rocky Marcoux, Department of City Development (DCD) Commissioner, boiled over during yesterday’s meeting of the Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee. Their comments were perhaps more muted, but the conflict was clear, and once again centered on the corner of 27th St. and Wisconsin Ave.
On April 17th, 2012 the Common Council approved a land disposition report, which provided that Klein Development Inc. would close on the purchase of the 2-acre city-owned lot, located at 27th St. and Wisconsin Ave., by August 30, 2012. It was expected that Klein Development would begin construction of a 3-story office building to house the State of Wisconsin Department of Children and Families shortly thereafter. But for reasons unclear, Klein Development has yet to close on the property and in the mean time the building design has changed, some would say dramatically. (See the renderings below.) And these changes only became known to the council in recent days.
In response, Bauman put forward a file to rescind the the land sale. During the zoning meeting, architect Jason Korb, Owner Korb Tredo Architects, said the change in design was required after DCD changed a plan to turn 27th Street into a boulevard. That plan would have required a 30-foot right of way, and once it was dropped the proposed building, to meet the city setback requirements, had to move closer to the street and into elevated ground. “We had to push the building down into the ground six feet,” Korb noted.
According to Marcoux, in May DCD switched to an approach that dropped the boulevard, which he called “changes consistent with what the council requested.” But he added that he didn’t realize then that those changes would bring the building further into the ground.
It should be noted there was no statutory requirement that the developer obtain new approvals for a new design. In effect this was simply the city agreeing to sell a piece of property. However, the council practice and expectation has been that when a sale is approved, the design that is then presented is in fact the one that is developed.
With Bauman as the sole dissenting vote the committee, by a vote of four to one, denied the rescinding of the land sale and instead extended the closing date. Later in the day the full Common Council approved the committee’s actions allowing for construction to begin immediately. The tenor of the discussion was that any delays could be harmful, perhaps even fatal to the development. And so Marcoux’s decisions were approved, and Bauman, one of the aldermen who had pushed the council to deny the DCD commissioner’s reappointment, did not carry the day.
However, the alderman did score a victory as to how such cases are handled in the future. During the full council meeting Bauman pushed a proposal that would require Common Council approval of design changes for similar projects (where the city sells the land for development) in the future. Explaining the need for this new legislation Bauman explained, “it would always focus on what we were getting in exchange for the sale of this land.” The proposal passed by an 11-2 vote.
This will give Marcoux and DCD less flexibility when overseeing development on land sold by the city. But the impact is not huge: only a dozen or so sales of city land occur per year.
October 24th, 2012 Renderings
May, 2012 Rendering
April 17th, 2012 Renderings