Michael Horne
The Roundup

Tower De Force

By - Sep 27th, 2004 12:00 pm
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Barry Mandel jokes that the cost of gold shovels has tripled since his late-20th century East Pointe Commons project, but he went ahead and bought a barrel of them for the Monday, September 27th groundbreaking of University Club Tower, “the newest, most luxurious, premier address in Wisconsin,” at 825 N. Prospect Avenue.

The shovels were for the ceremonial use of such dignitaries as Mayor Tom Barrett, County Executive Scott Walker, Ald. Bob Bauman; such better-than-average folks as Milwaukee Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce chief Tim Sheehy and Greater Milwaukee Committee head Julia Taylor; along with the intrepid Mandel and his partners at University Club Tower LLC — Peter Mahler, Blaine Rieke and Christopher Smocke.

They were joined by hundreds of well-dressed professionals, including numerous representatives of renowned local fiscal dukedoms – those who by their personal exertions, (or those of ancestors), will enable them to become occupants of the 32-story tower. Seventy percent of the units have been sold, Mandel told the crowd, adding the buyers committed an average $1.5 million each for a total of $50 million thus far on the $90 million project.

In remarks introducing the Mayor, Mandel acknowledged his presence and said, “a $90 million tax base increase is not a bad day’s work.”

Then the crowd heard brief remarks from Scott Walker. He told a story about a New Yorker on a business trip who brought his workout clothes to Milwaukee because he wanted to take a run around the Lake one morning.

Those New Yorkers! Such provincials!

Mayor Barrett then took the stage, and capitalized on Mandel’s remarks about the ninety million dollars.

“During the primary election when I had a number of opponents, one of them said, ‘Tom Barrett – all he will do as mayor is attend groundbreakings and ribbon cuttings!’

“My staff brought me this quote and thought I’d be outraged.

“On the contrary. ‘Sounds good to me,’ I said.

“If this is all I have to do for four years, I would be happy.”

So happy was he, the mayor said, that he absolutely did not want to have Barry Mandel “say you’ll donate a floor for a Mayoral residence. I have a nice home on the west side and I will stay there. But this would make a nice lake home. Maybe we can alternate weeks with Scott Walker’s family.”

After that jollity, there was a period of outdoor mingling while the shovels were passed out and the hardhats were fitted.

Julia Taylor made quite a show, with a shovel under one arm, a crutch under the other, and her foot in a cast.

What happened?

“Oh it was just routine surgery. I must come up with a more exciting story.”

Tim Sheehy says things are coming along nicely with the addition to his Fox Point home. He also had a shovel. He might need it.

Mingling in the crowd were such luminaries as Betty Quadracci, who lives just down the street and Frank Cumberbatch, the mayor’s economic development adviser who presumably was not the primary challenger who made the crack about ribbon cuttings.

Bob Friebert and his law partner John Finerty showed up at the event, as did Dennis Kuester, whose M&I bank has got some money in the project, along with Nancy Beutner Meeks and other real estate professionals who would like to get some money out of the project. Steve Marcus came by, as did Marian Chester Read, Bob and Mimi Habush, and Natalie Soref, who said she was the first to buy a unit there, and expects, at 80, to be the oldest to move in.

Don’t count on that!

Luncheon was served at the University Club, where a sales center for the Tower has been set up, in all its granite counter and Kohler fixture grandeur – in the basement.

Kim Hawkins, whose Watergraphics design firm did much of the work for the sales brochure and the display area graphics, said Mandel is a joy to work for, and he pays on the dot.

The diners were greeted by fully-set banquet tables, and my party inadvertently sat in one whose “RESERVED” card was obscured by all of the plates, glasses, rolls, salad dressings, fruit cups, pastries, cookies and flatware that abounded on the crisp linen surface.

I tucked the “RESERVED” card under a salad bowl, since it was taking up precious space, and I can say, without reservation, that I enjoyed my very pleasant luncheon companions.

The building is designed by the Chicago office of Skidmore Owings & Merrill, the same outfit that gave us the First Wisconsin Center. (Building’s still standing; name’s gone.)

First Weber Group is spearheading the sales effort, with Molly Abrohams, who was there, as Listing Broker.

J. H. Findorff & Son Inc. is the contractor.

More information can be found at www.universityclubtower.com

GOPs Secret Script

The Republican National Committee has issued a booklet entitled “72 Hour Task Force: 7 Steps to 72 Hour Success – Building a Successful County Party.”

In it are several strategies for Republicans to build a grassroots strategy (god help us) for getting out the “Independent” and “Unaffiliated” vote.

Included in the pamphlet are scripts, including “Sample E-Mail Team Leader Recruitment,” which includes this text:

“Because you are a top-notch Republican activist, I wanted to personally extend an invitation for you to become a Team Leader.

“Not everyone knows about this, especially the Democrats, so I ask you to keep this quiet and under the radar screen.”

Oops! Sorry, I spilled the beans.

Don’t Have a Seizure: DEA Nabs Locals

One of the pleasantest sources of revenue for national newspapers like the New York times, the Wall Street Journal and USA Today is the printing of legal notices from various federal law enforcement agencies.

It seems back in the days when the Democrats ran the government you would hardly ever see any Eastern Wisconsin names in the lists of seizures of properties.

Nowadays, thanks in part to the efforts of folks like U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic, our metro area gets its due from time to time.

In a list published in the Wall Street Journal on Monday, September 27th, we learn that Peter Witherall of Kenosha lost many computers and monitors to the DEA.

Jamie Martzahl of De Pere is out $17,000 in U.S. currency, along with a 2001 Lexus IS300 sedan.

Kamar M. Carter of Green Bay forfeited $3,363.23 in U.S. currency, while our friend Martzahl lost yet another $3,700 in currency, this time from a Kaukauna address.

The local seizures seem penny ante, compared to those routinely reported for a place like Florida, where Nicole Renee Dixon forked over $93,546, Osvaldo Hernandez is out $80,650, and Lawton D. Blackwood forfeited $24,800.

Tax Freeze Chills Mequon Roadwork

Last year the Mequon Common Council pandered to its wealthy, mostly republican constituency and passed a tax freeze in the growing community.

This year, the Mequon Common Council is debating how to use funds – other than taxes – to maintain and reconstruct some of its crumbling – and I mean crumbling – streets. A section of N. Port Washington Road that should have been included in a disastrous 1999-2000 rebuilding is now coming on line north of Mequon Road, and the council is short of money to do the job, particularly as its neighborhood streets are also falling apart, with miles added to the list of streets in disrepair.

Zedler Lane, for example, was listed as nearly “impassible” in a recent survey, although a personal inspection in August  showed the street would be fine if the neighbors would simply mow the weeds growing through the cracks there.

Since that time, the city has tossed a few patches on Zedler Lane while the common council debates what to do with Port Washington Road. An idea: an assessment of the front footage of neighboring property owners along the affected portion of the road. This assessment was tried before in the construction of lower Port Washington Road, which, incoungrously, begins about ¼ mile into Mequon, with the lower-lower Port Washington Road still a dangerous gravel-ditched mess.

Some aldermen argued about the rate to which the assessments might be set, remembering the horrors of the earlier construction, where several businesses went out of business due to no business during the protracted construction.

Bad enough business, should be impaired during the construction, they say, so why should we assess these owners during their hardship?

And the solution would be?

Of course, to put the construction of the major commercial road on the tax bill to be shared by the entire community.

But of course, Mequon can not do that because of the Tax Freeze.

This discussion will go round and round. As long as there is a tax freeze, and we live in a world of unpredictable expenditures and emergencies, Mequon aldermen will spend a lot of time wringing their hands while their highways and other community assets remain liable to decline.

Mayor’s Budget a Surprise?

You could be excused for thinking that  Mayor Barrett tried to spring his budget message on an unsuspecting Common Council based on the official notice issued September 22, 2004 by the City Clerk.

“Your are hereby notified that there will be a special meeting of the Common Council to be held on Thursday, September 23, 2004 … for the following purposes:

“Message from His Honor, Tom Barrett, relative to the proposed executive budget for the year 2005 and to consider the following:

Communication from the Mayor transmitting the proposed budget for the year 2005.”

Fair enough.

But what seemed odd  is that the Mayor’s Budget announcement was given on short notice, and that the event should have been held as a “special meeting.”

Consider this footnote from the official notice:

“Note: Please be apprised that less than 24 hours’ notice is given for this notice because it is impractical to give the 24 hours’ notice.”

What gives? They couldn’t come up with 24 hours notice to deliver a billion dollar budget?

Blame unfinished business. According to Jim Owczarski, the council records manager,  the Common Council had a matter of unfinished business in File number 040639, creating Tax Incremental District No. 56. Alderman Michael S. D’Amato, the chairman of the Zoning and Neighborhood Committee wanted to consider another item – 040780, having to do with Riverwalk improvements at the same meeting, so his request was piggybacked on to the agenda, thus necessitating the “less than 24 hours” clause.

Owczarski said, although it may seem a fussy bit of nonsense, the city “tries its best to uphold the letter and spirit of the Open Meetings Law,” and in this case the warning note was required.

And what about Ald. D’Amato’s precious File 040780?

The council decided not to hear it at that time, and will wait to discuss it later due to the reservations of certain aldermen.

Another Official notice will be issued, presumably with more than 24 hours notice.

More Interesting News

Milwaukeeworld reader Terry Mulcahy scored a Hole-In-One at Tripoli Country Club last week and got his name in the newspaper for his Honor Score. He was golfing with his son and friends, and couldn’t see the green from the tee. Sure enough, when the foursome made it to the pin, there was the ball in the cup.

Mulcahy, who works with big dollars at Robert W. Baird and Co. has not tallied how many dollars he spent buying obligatory drinks for the lucky folks who happened to be thronging the clubhouse that Sunday afternoon.

He did say that Tripoli, like other Country Clubs, takes out Hole-In-One insurance, which will pay him a handsome dividend in the form of a $1,000 gift certificate at the Pro Shop there.

Uncle Chas Mulcahy said he heard the news. “I got several telephone calls about it,” he said. “I’m a tennis player, so you can imagine how impressed I am with it.” … Of course, if the Town Club were to have a Golf Course it would only have room for the miniature variety. … I was going to write something about the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, but darned if I can remember what. … Scott Walker is appearing on “Lift the Cap” ads, which judging from their ubiquity (and his participation) must be an effort to oversimplify current school choice issues. “Let more students enroll in choice and charter schools,” is the message of the advertisements, which insist that it is within Governor Doyle’s ability to do so. Despite the power, the governor has twice declined to do so.

Why run the ads now, when the Legislature is not in session and while the governor is far from his television set while traveling Japan on a trade mission?

According to Walker, the advertisements are not designed for Doyle’s edification but to generate telephone calls to his office by concerned citizens. … The fire at Shorewood High School has forced the Shorewood Players to find a new home for their upcoming production of My Fair Lady. Local commercial real estate broker Tom Gale plays Professor Henry Higgins. The Shorewood Players have performed at the school’s auditorium for ages. … We told you some time ago about the rare painting of Mary Tudor discovered in Milwaukee when our advertiser American Conservators was hired to restore the sooty portrait. Art and Antiques Magazine covers the story in its October 2004 issue, on the stands now. … A receiver has been appointed for the assets of Michael H. Lord. It was issued in favor of Lehmann Maupin Galleries of New York, one of many businesses and individuals with six-figure plus claims against the dealer. Line up by November if you hope to receive a “dividend,” as it is called. There will be many others ahead of you. In the meantime, Lord is enjoined from disposing of his assets. … “The Queen of Bingo,” a farce played in drag is coming to the Northern Lights Stage at Potawatomi Bingo Casino in October. …”Runaway outsourcing of jobs overseas result(ed) in the first net job loss since Hoover administration!” – From John Kerry brochure. [Emphasis original.]

Since the Hoover administration? Who remembers that? And of those who don’t remember, how many even know what the reference is? [Hoover was president when the stock market crashed, and in the first days of the Great Depression.] … Aladdin Restaurant has moved to 202 W. Wisconsin Avenue, as noted here earlier. The place closes by 6 p.m., and is well set up to serve quick, inexpensive and healthy luncheons.

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