Op-Ed

Mistake Along the Lake?

Proposed luxury apartment on S. Lake Dr. should be reconsidered.

By - Jun 2nd, 2015 01:18 pm
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The Landing Condominiums looming over the site. Photo by Ted Chisholm.

The Landing Condominiums looming over the site. Photo by Ted Chisholm.

The South Shore is blessed with parkland that enhances the quality of life for all Milwaukeeans who enjoy the beautiful lakefront. Just as parks like South Shore, Bay View, and Sheridan provide habitats for wildlife and protection for native flora and fauna, they promote the physical and emotional well being of the greater community.

Given the positive and life-affirming qualities inherent to preserved greenspace, we believe our remaining lakefront resources should be maintained as natural areas. Therefore, it is imperative that one of St. Francis’s last “developable” greenspaces, 4300 S. Lake Drive, be preserved as a natural area. This parcel has not experienced the transformative effects of development, and possesses high potential for use as a conservation area. Furthermore, it abuts Sheridan Park, one of the shining jewels in Milwaukee County’s “emerald necklace” of parkland.  The development of this parcel would contribute to Wisconsin’s ongoing problem of land fragmentation, an environmentally destructive process which would harm Sheridan Park. By preserving the lakefront as natural space, we ensure its enjoyment by countless generations to come. We ensure the protection and the expansion of our existing natural habitats. We become facilitators of life – of plant life, of animal life, and of community life.

The open site as it morphs into Sheridan Park.  Photo by Ted Chisholm

The open site as it morphs into Sheridan Park. Photo by Ted Chisholm

These principles move us to oppose the City of St. Francis in its efforts to develop the 4300 S. Lake Drive site into 300 “luxury apartments.”  The city views this issue through a different paradigm. Its leaders claim that their economic resources are failing, that they cannot bail out a decaying TIF district unless they build this specific development, at this very site. This argument, quite frankly, is preposterous. Do the city’s leaders expect the flora and fauna of the lakefront’s environmental corridor to shoulder the burden of a failed tax-incremental financing district? Thus far, the City has declined to disclose whether it possesses a sufficient surplus fund to bail out this district without further development. Do the city’s leaders expect our communities to sell the potential of additional lakefront parkland to a developer, when they have failed to prove the necessity of doing so?  Do they expect the people of Milwaukee County to surrender their lakefront access to a handful of “luxury apartment” owners? Evidently, they do.

Lakefront. Photo by Ted Chisholm.

Lakefront. Photo by Ted Chisholm.

Given that the city already has four multi-unit development properties that are under-filled (Park Shore, The Landing, The Arctic Avenue Condominiums and Hidden Ponds), there is simply no need for development of this site. In addition, if the city wants to proceed with TIF- funded development, there is a parcel for sale between the two existing condominium developments. While not ideal, a mid-rise building complex would be less intrusive at that site.

The City of St. Francis is obdurate. There has been a general lack of transparency regarding this development effort, one which greatly concerns the affected residents of Cudahy, St. Francis, and Bay View. Furthermore, although its proposed development will affect more Cudahy residents than citizens of St. Francis, non-St. Francis residents are forbidden to speak at relevant community meetings. The city beseeches us to consider the economic ramifications of not developing this parcel. To this, we have a simple response: while money may not grow on trees, a community does.  Our natural surroundings shape our identity, as neighborhoods and as individuals.

We will not abandon our environment in its time of need. As citizens, as environmentalists, and as members of the Cohesive Community Committee, we will work to preserve the 4300 S. Lake Drive site in its natural state.

Categories: Op-Ed, Real Estate

13 thoughts on “Op-Ed: Mistake Along the Lake?”

  1. AG says:

    Beautiful setting. I’d love to rent an apartment there! And right next to a park? Even better.

  2. Casey says:

    Wish they were more concerned with developing the triangle section that is Lake Shore, Packard and Howard into some kind of retail or mixed use. Use the open space on the lake can be a “town square”. Then St. Francis can finally have a downtown and feel more like a real community.

  3. Ted Chisholm says:

    I also want to recognize coauthors Jonnie Guernsey, Bill Lavelette, and Bill Krawczyk, who collaborated closely to write this on behalf of the Cohesive Community Committee.

  4. andrea says:

    We really don’t need anymore apartments especially right on the lake front….leave it as a park!

  5. gt says:

    “While not ideal, a mid-rise building complex would be less intrusive at that site.”

    spoken like a true expert

  6. Brian Biernat says:

    Ted,
    Over 60% of the south shore lakefront is tied up in public park land. It is grossly underutilized and the County has no funding to install new public accessibility features or amenities – the essential reason for creating public park land is for public use and recreation. In the City of Cudahy, where I serve as the Economic Development Director, 98% of the lakeshore is public park – Warnimont Park being the largest piece and woefully unimproved. This land represents the highest value property in the city and will never contribute a dime to city tax rolls. Question. Why is it acceptable that most of the north shore lake frontage is privately held development in the hands of some of the wealthiest individuals in southeastern Wisconsin while criticising a south shore community that wants to provide property tax relief to its citizens by seeking high value development on privately owned land along the lake adjacent to hundreds of acres of already existing underutilized lakeshore parkland? Your entire premise is baseless and disingenuous. However, you can make a real difference by buying the subject land at fair market value and donating it to the County for park use.

  7. Max says:

    Preserving land for the benefit of all is hardly disingenuous, nor would I categorize Warnimont as “woefully unimproved” – it provides in-measurable, natural benefits to the citizens of the community.

    The thing that strikes me as I drive or ride my bike on Lake Drive in St Francis is the wasteland created by making it a 4 lane thoroughfare, complete with a middle turn lane. If you want to make comparisons to the North Shore, at least both sides of their Lake Dr is a beautiful tree-lined drive that has expensive homes (paying property) taxes on both sides of the street.

  8. Ted Chisholm says:

    Just as a quick response to Brian, this project is not intended to provide property tax relief. It’s intended to bail out St. Francis’s TIF 3, which was premised on the “triangle” area (referenced in an earlier comment) being a success. On the contrary, it’s been a disaster, so a new TIF anchored by this development is desired by the City in order to get the older TIF out from underwater.

  9. David Ciepluch says:

    Lakefront property of Lake Michigan should belong to the public and the view it provides along this stretch. Once buildings are constructed, it is blocked for numerous lifetimes. I know there is an old saying, “If you like your view, buy it”. Someone forgot to tell First Nation People and the lost it all.

    There is a more practical and responsible reason not to build along this stretch of lakeshore. There is no breakwater protection and the higher bluff is known to erode quickly during storms and high lake water levels. Building here would enhance the erosional forces of runoff water from impervious surfaces and compacted soil that construction practices and further undermine the bluff area. I am not sure what developer would take on this sort of project and provide some certainty with erosional protection of the shoreline for the long term integrity of constructed building and grounds. Insurance cost alone for the building and grounds for erosion loss could become cost prohibitive. As a community, should St. Francis approve this project based on this information alone instead of looking at dollar signs?

  10. David Ciepluch says:

    In regards to erosion protection, lessons have been learned along the western shore of Lake Michigan and building has been limited to areas that have breakwater type protection available. If this area is developed, what happens when the inevitable occurs and the bluff starts caving into the Lake? Who is responsible for protection – developer, owner, St. Francis, Milwaukee County, the State.

  11. Dave says:

    “Why is it acceptable that most of the north shore lake frontage is privately held development in the hands of some of the wealthiest individuals in southeastern Wisconsin while criticising a south shore community that wants to provide property tax relief to its citizens by seeking high value development on privately owned land along the lake adjacent to hundreds of acres of already existing underutilized lakeshore parkland?”

    Jesus… Maybe you should worry a little more about why your city completely tore up Packard Ave virtually eliminating access to Cudahy’s busiest stretch of businesses than asking dumb questions sprinkled with misrepresentations and falsehoods.

  12. Ted Chisholm says:

    For those interested the Cohesive Community Committee’s work to preserve the St. Francis lakefront, and to oppose a badly planned TIF, please follow our efforts at http://www.savethelakefront.blogspot.com/

  13. Curt Skawsai says:

    Easy for you to say. You’re a high school kid that doesn’t live or (perhaps more importantly) pay property taxes in St. Francis. Get a clue.

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