Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

New Apartments for Oak and Loc

Neighbors react to 5-story, 55-unit apartment complex for East Side corner.

By - Jul 25th, 2017 01:00 pm
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2900 Apartments Proposal. Design by Striegel-Agacki Studio

2900 Apartments Proposal. Design by Striegel-Agacki Studio

Last night East-Side residents had their first chance to react to a 5-story, 55-unit apartment building planned for the northeast corner of N. Oakland Ave. and E. Locust St. The building, which would require a zoning variance, is being proposed by Klein Development and Jeno Cataldo. Striegel-Agacki Studio is leading the design of the project.

The apartments would target graduate students and teachers, according to the development team. The building would be a mix of studio and one-bedroom units with eight corner units having a two-bedroom layout. According to developer Michael Klein, a handful of units would be fully furnished. The building will be managed by Founders 3, which manages other properties for Klein.

Klein predicted rents for the project will start at $900/month for a studio, $1,200 for a one-bedroom unit and $1,800 for a two-bedroom unit.

In line with many other new apartment buildings and exceeding the zoning requirements, the development would include more than 60 parking spaces or approximately 1.1 parking spaces per unit. Ten parking spaces would be on the first floor and accessed from E. Locust St. and the remaining spaces would be underground and accessed from the alley.

The existing building at 2900 N. Oakland Ave. is a two-story commercial building owned by Capri Oakland Property LLC and now occupied by Cousins Subs. The 4,596 square-foot building and 10,966 square-foot lot are assessed at a combined $321,000. It would be demolished to make way for the new building.

The project’s estimated cost is $12 million to $13 million.

Bumper to Bumper Opinions

The meeting, held at the Urban Ecology Center, was convened by area alderman Nik Kovac, who holds a meeting with neighbors for any proposed zoning variance in the district.

The development team made a short presentation that quickly became a question-and-answer session. Things got started with a bang when one attendee interjected “why aren’t you building this Downtown? This is completely inappropriate for our neighborhood.” Before the developers could answer, even more questions started.

Yet after more than an hour and a half of sometimes heated back-and-forth questions from attendees, a straw poll conducted by Kovac at the hearing showed general support for the project. Of those left in attendance, 16 were in support, nine opposed it and 18 individuals voted “maybe” with requests for modifications to the plan.

Feedback from the approximately 50 people in attendance ranged from concerns about traffic and parking to the building height and the fear of the corridor being redeveloped as it was just to the north in Shorewood.

Building Design

The design of the building is unique, and that drew plenty of comments.

Said Kovac: “I do think the shape of this, for better or worse, is unusual.” He noted he often gets complaints about new buildings being boxes, but the shape of this one certainly is not that. He added “the building they’re proposing to tear down is extremely bland.”

The new building would extend to near the lot line at every corner, but recesses in the middle. The recesses create interior terraces that step up throughout the facade. The fifth floor is set back, making the building appear smaller.

The first floor would be wrapped in a substantial amount of glass for three retail spaces. The northernmost stall would be occupied by Cousins Subs, thus retaining its current location. The upper floors would be a mix of white brick and corrugated metal siding.

When asked why they didn’t make it look like existing buildings on the street, architect Michael Striegel responded, “our position is to design a clean modern building with its own aesthetic.” Striegel said he was pleased with the design, which drew audible snickering from the audience.

Multiple attendees suggested more neutral, earth-tone colors to match other buildings in the area.  The development team said they would evaluate this along with a suggestion to set the first-floor further back from the sidewalk.

Traffic Concerns

In response to a litany of questions about traffic, Department of Public Works representative Karen Dettmer said, “I know 55 units sounds like a lot, but on two arterial streets it will have minimal impact.”

Kovac, who noted this is the most congested intersection in his district, said “they’re not going to make it better, but they’re not going to make it appreciably worse.”

After a variety of solutions for mitigating the congested intersection of N. Oakland Ave. and E. Locust St. were discussed, one particularly heated attendee accused the city of deliberately slowing traffic to favor pedestrians and bicyclists. Kovac responded “I concede that point that we are trying to encourage slower traffic in general.” He noted that much of this was done to favor residents and improve public safety.

A handful of attendees spoke in favor of these design trends, but the majority of concerns in the meeting still centered around improving the flow of vehicles at the intersection.

Future Development

One issue raised at multiple points throughout the meeting was the precedent this development could set. In fact, that was a key reason why the area business improvement district, known as Oak and Loc BID #13, supports the project. In a letter supporting the project they deem “catalytic,” the organization of area property owners expressed their hope the project will “spur the redevelopment of other properties.”

Kovac noted the desires of the business improvement district and residents are likely at odds, but he believes this project would attract residents who would increase the public safety of the area by placing more “eyes on the street.”

One thing that is much closer to reality than the major redevelopment of the corridor is the opening of a Blaze Pizza restaurant across the street from the proposed development. Work is ongoing on a building at 2907 N. Oakland Ave., on the northwest corner of the intersection, that most recently housed a Five Guys burger restaurant.

What’s Next

While Kovac raised the specter of another neighborhood meeting, none was announced. Because of the August recess for the Common Council there is extra time to accommodate an additional meeting without disrupting any approval timeline.

The project is tentatively slated to go before the City Plan Commission on September 11th, the Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committe on October 10th and the full Common Council on October 17th.

Public hearings would be held both at the City Plan Commission and zoning committee meetings.

Should the project get approved, Klein hopes to start demolition on the current building immediately and finish the new building in early 2019.

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Rendering

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40 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: New Apartments for Oak and Loc”

  1. Toni Toni Toni says:

    WHERE WILL I PARK MY CAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaarrrr?

  2. Joseph Luehring says:

    Nooooooooooooo.

  3. Colin Stuart says:

    It says it right in the article. “the development would include more than 60 parking spaces or approximately 1.1 parking spaces per unit. Ten parking spaces would be on the first floor and accessed from E. Locust St. and the remaining spaces would be underground and accessed from the alley.”

  4. Toni Toni Toni says:

    THINK OF THE VISITORS!!!!

    I didn’t read the article. No time! I’m too busy driving around the Eastside looking for a free and convenient place to park the oversized car I drive myself around in.

    Also, I’m just being a smart ass and chiming in on this before the rest of Urban Milwaukee readers have a chance to.

  5. JoeW says:

    Toni….well done.

  6. Wayne Goldschmidt says:

    This whole project is a bunch of codswallop! First off, the design is terrible. It will stick out like a sore thumb, no, actually worse, two sore thumbs (one being the white brick, and the other being black corrugated metal). Second, five stories is way too much. Nothing in the vicinity matches this density!! This will certainly stand out in the same vein as Locust Court or Sandburg Halls. I love to look east down Locust for early morning sun gazing sessions, and this monstrosity will certainly obstruct my view. Lastly, the traffic this building will add to the neighborhood is unacceptable. Oakland and Locust is one of the worst intersections on the east side, and this will further perpetuate this ongoing problem.

    When are we going to draw the line in the sand??? This sort of development cannot creep into Oak & Loc/Cambridge Woods/Murray Hill!! If it does, we will soon become another unaffordable neighborhood with a bunch of young, upwardly mobile professionals who owns small dogs and need the latest gluten-free delicacy! I cannot stand this type of haphazard development. The architect and development team have done a terrible job on this project so far! I implore Alder Kovac and all concerned neighborhood residents to band together and resist this vile excuse for a five-story building!!

  7. Sam says:

    It’s an improvement for the street corner. I wish the developers would be more ambitious in their color choices, a white and black building doesn’t do much to cut through the gray drudgery of Winter in Milwaukee.

    Nimby sentiment won’t make things more affordable in Milwaukee. Just the opposite. Ald. Kovak, thankfully, knows this.

  8. Toni Toni Toni says:

    See, when I read things like ‘This ugly building will prevent me from staring into the sun!’
    I don’t know if that’s meant mockingly or not.

    Also, some people are genuinely allergic to Gluten. It’s not like being vegan. Make fun of the vegans if you have to pick on a persons dietary restrictions when complaining about developments that prevent you from staring into the sun.

  9. Eric S says:

    Concerned about a neighborhood becoming unaffordable? Support additional housing.

    Want people to be priced out of a neighborhood as it becomes more popular? Oppose additional housing.

  10. J says:

    1200 for a 1 bedroom seems like a lot for the neighborhood, but it’s been awhile since I’ve been looking.

    Though a website or two are telling me that’s quite high for upper eastside, by a few hundred.

  11. Wayne Goldschmidt says:

    My sunset is already ruined by Locust Court, I don’t want my sunrise to be ruined by this development; I hope you can understand my impending predicament! My comments are based on anecdotal evidence; I have indeed seen many upwardly mobile small dog owners who love gluten-free food, regardless of whether they have Celiac disease or not.

  12. Dave Reid says:

    @J Generally speaking, new construction will come higher rents due to the cost to build it.

  13. Alex says:

    How on earth do people actually think a grubby half empty cousins building is better than a new multi-family housing development… I go to that intersection almost every night and it’s ratchet. This will help business, asthetics and safety. As for the people complaining about the height… nothing in the vicinity is so large? Really? How about the new 10 story tall science building on the uwm campus, or the 11 story tall ems building? Or maybe the 26 story tall dorm on Maryland… come on people you live in the city, this is what it’s like.

  14. Devin says:

    @J While $1200 is more than some other properties in the neighborhood, it’s lower than many other new construction buildings on the Eastside where $1,400-$1,600 for a 1 bedroom under 800sq/ft isn’t uncommon.

  15. Brewer says:

    Why does the ugly structure have to be so close to the street? The corner is already a nightmare for pedestrians even though there are signals. SO many people turn right on red even though it is prohibited.

  16. J says:

    @dave Reid

    I can understand that, just wondering where they’ll find all these folks to live there, lots of 1k+/mo apartments popping up, downtown, bayview,.. etc.. just curious if there really are that many people.out there looking to spend that much on an apartment.

  17. Dave Reid says:

    @J Well it’s my understanding that the new apartments have been renting up just fine.

  18. J says:

    @dave Reid

    Good to know.

  19. TGaudynski says:

    While I support density, especially along a major bus line, I see this as a continuation of the “studentization” of the neighborhood I’ve lived in for the past 28 years (Cambridge Heights). I’ve see our neighborhood’s retail and services descend to serving only students and not the home-owning taxpayer residents. For example, with the new pizza place coming to the old Five Guys space we will have seven pizza restaurants in a three block area (eight if you include Walgreens). This is culturally useful to who?

    And the University, what does it offer the residents they can’t get from other East side cultural services? Drunken parties, no parking in front of your house, increased crime?

    The comparisons to Oak and Loc becoming Shorewood are off base. The people living in the recent Shorewood five-story apartments have more money (empty nesters and professionals) and Shorewood has the appropriate infrastucture within walking distance to support their needs; not seven pizza joints. When I moved here, Oak and Loc used to be a neighborhood-centric retail and service area for residents, not students. That has drastically changed, and this is just the most recent iteration.

    I think the alderman, the bid, and others need to really think about this. Is Oak and Loc for UWM or for full time residents.

  20. Vincent Hanna says:

    I lived on the Oakland and Locust corner from 2002-2004. Right across from the laundromat on Locust (Is that still there?). It was pretty college friendly back then. Axel’s and Atomic and what not. It felt like a college neighborhood to me 15 years ago. I was 22 and that was part of the appeal.

  21. TGaudynski says:

    Vincent,

    Cultural diversity is wonderful. I too loved that mix 15 years ago and before. But mono-culture is repressive and pushes out diversity.

  22. Robert Miranda says:

    It’s not one big box it’s just a series of smaller boxes – 😂
    $900 a month gets you a 3br in the Southside. You even get the same kind of potholes on the street like you do on the east side for that price

  23. Vincent Hanna says:

    I’m just saying this isn’t anything new. I would have bailed on that neighborhood long ago if it bothered me that much and wasn’t changing the way I wanted it to.

  24. TGaudynski says:

    Vincent,

    you obviously don’t live in a single family home you own on the river with Oak Leaf path across the street. Different values for someone your age (based on you revelations).

  25. Vincent Hanna says:

    No need to be condescending. I am a home owner. If I spend more than a decade lamenting a neighborhood I lived in the way you do I’d probably move. You have a lot of complaints.

  26. Rich says:

    one particularly heated attendee accused the city of deliberately slowing traffic to favor pedestrians and bicyclists

    We pedestrians and cyclists eagerly await this heated attendee’s departure from the neighborhood!

  27. Benny Nota says:

    Just my “ugh” at “Oak and Loc” – which, when those signs went up, had never been uttered by any actual human person (marketing folks are not “people” 🙂 )

  28. Fried Cheese says:

    Is there really a need for more graduate and teacher housing? Sounds pretty fishy. Anyways, build 55 units; it’s a free country! Just don’t make it so ugly. Please, just stop. It’s bad.

  29. Josh says:

    The funny thing is the colors would look less harsh with some sneaky photoshopping in the environment of the rendering. They did themselves a disservice.

    (I’m an architect)

  30. Old Man Yells at Cloud says:

    I will not comment on the design since it speaks quite loudly for itself…
    But for some of these comments, holy cow.

    “Think of the traffic!” Dude, 100 people might live here and they probably won’t all have cars. How many people go in and out of the existing lot now? Also, I’d blame the bad drivers for being bad drivers, not a building.

    “Why is it so close to the street?” Look up and down Oakland in the vicinity, you may notice a trend.

    “My view will be ruined!” I thought millennials were supposed to be entitled, wow. I’m sorry your sunrise will be delayed a few minutes due to a taller building. The cousins building is quite the looker, I would imagine the sunrise is quite majestic as it passes the sign listing the sandwich of the day (missing letters and all).

    “Students and teachers? Screw them!” Yeah! Education totally blows and should be abolished… well, that’s in the works with the current administration.

    Sorry, the coffee is kicking in.

  31. Old Man Yells at Cloud says:

    @Benny While I never referred to is as Oak & Loc, my boomer parents do. The signs look like a 70’s throwback too. (if i’m visualizing them right)

  32. Steve says:

    “fear of the corridor being redeveloped as it was just to the north in Shorewood”… WTF? That would be a bad thing? Some of Oakland could use an upgrade and by improving the neighborhood, it may make it more attractive to professionals rather than an alt-70s vibe that fits the student – transient population well.

  33. MKMKE says:

    Build it, definitely!

  34. Oak and Loc says:

    Much to say here on behalf of BID #13, where we’ve gone through a number of identities over the years – University Square, Upper East Side and Oak and Loc. The latter actually came from former County Supervisor Gerry Broderick whose family has been in the neighborhood for decades. Gerry suggested we go back to the phrase that had been “uttered” many times back in the day. And, through my own interaction with my college aged and twenty-something, MPS educated children, the phrase seems to be “uttered” more and more often. That being said, we always appreciate constructive neighborhood input.
    Regarding the development, we have taken a strong position in favor of this new development. While we see new construction in Shorewood, on NorthAvenue, Brady Street, KK and others, we have stood still on Oak and Loc. A new development that puts feet on the street (not customers in cars) is an improvement for local business, area safety and neighborhood strength. While we understand the design may need some adjustments, we oppose this building becoming the subject of design by committee. That almost always results in an inferior project with the perfect becoming the enemy of the good. We believe concerns regarding height (the proposed height is within the existing zoning code), density, traffic and parking are the same complaints that are always cited without any evidence or consideration to the overlying zoning or context of the area. A mixed use building located at the intersection of two major streets should be taller and have more mass than other buildings in the area. Considering the cost of the land, any project at this site will require a similar number of units to make the project worthwhile for the developer. Living with the existing Cousin’s building is unacceptable. Unless someone from the neighborhood wants to buy it and redevelop it differently or the city wants to subsidize the development (something we don’t support) this is the project we have before us to consider.
    Oak and Loc needs to be revitalized. The traditional iconic local businesses are here to stay- Lisa’s, OG’s, Thai Kitchen- but while our neighboring commercial districts are improving we’re stuck in neutral. In order to stay competitive we must progress. This development is a good start.
    Thank you for your concern for our street and for supporting locally owned business and your neighborhood commercial district.

  35. Kenneth says:

    I support the apartment development. However, the speedy motorists that drive back and forth across the Locust street bridge from Humboldt to Oakland is a major residential problem. A 25 mile per hour speed limit needs to be created for starters. Our pedestrian and bike use of this street is continually challenged by the crazy driving speedsters! Build but let’s take our street back to a safe and serene place.

  36. Barbara says:

    I have to agree with those who think the white and black coloring of the new building is too stark. But I strongly disagree with those who don’t want to see the flavor of the retail district change. I’ve lived on Oakland north of there for almost 30 years, and it’s always looked tired and pretty tacky, frankly. A lot of the signage is garish and cheap looking and a lot of the store fronts could stand an upgrade. The Cousins corner is one of the worse spots. If this building could spur even a facelift in the area, it’s a good thing. I do think the building could be a bit shorter. Even one story less would be more suitable.

  37. Thomas says:

    I am concerned about 10 parking spaces on the first floor, accessed by Locust Street. I think it would be difficult to earn Locust Street from there during peak travel times. I also suspect that car wrecks could result from drivers entering Locust between Oakland and the alley when east bound drivers are accelerating in that block to make it through a yellow light. I think that all of the cars parked at this building should exit on the alley.

  38. madhya462 says:

    @Vince – Laundromat is indeed still there, and Axel’s. Atomic Records, however, closed in 2009 and is online-only now. Storefront became Atomic Glass, a headshop, which has permanently closed as of 3 days ago, according to their website: http://www.atomicglass.net/location-and-social-media. Curious, wonder what’s next.

  39. Kathleen Miller says:

    Looks attractive and appropriate to me, a neighbor. A big improvement over what has become a shabby building. I don’t mind 4-5 stories, especially with a set back for the 5th floor on this artery. Glad the Cousins Subs will reappear. I agree with concerns about traffic entering and exiting directly to Locust, if that is a correct understanding of the plan. Also concerned about whether there will be sufficient short term parking for customers of Cousins and any other first floor retail establishments.

  40. Kathleen Miller says:

    That intersection has some good businesses, but as a whole it has become tired and run down. The proposed building would help reverse that, in my view. This is also an opportunity to re-imagine the design of Locust Street between Humboldt and Maryland so it is friendlier to all its users, especially cyclists and pedestrians and motorists trying to enter or leave businesses.

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