Dave Reid

City Plan Commission Approves Downer Avenue Plan

By - Feb 12th, 2008 08:33 pm

condos_x200.pngThe first item on the agenda, Resolution 070963, was the heavily debated Downer Avenue Redevelopment Phase II project. The resolution would recommend a change of zoning from General Planned Development to Detailed Planned Development and include a 7-story hotel, an 11-story residential tower, 5 town homes, and a 4-story addition to the Mulkhern building.

Architect Scott Kindness indicated that the Chancery building currently retains only about 50% of its original facade and that they “plan on taking down the entire building to allow this to happen” but that they will “rebuild the 1936 version of the Chancery building”. Clearly he was referring to rebuilding the facade along the first two floors as they will add additional floors with a setback allowing the street level massing to appear similar to its original design. He also indicated the project will most likely break ground in the Spring of 2009 as both pre-sales for the condominiums and finding the operator for the hotel will take time and are dependent on approvals. Architect Matt Rinka explained that the redevelopment of the Mulkhern building would include the 4-story addition, demolishing the drive through and ramp, creation of an urban garden, and will convert the existing upper floor to medical uses.

mulkhern_x200.pngDespite multiple iterations, and numerous meetings opposition to this change in zoning was brought by local community members who have fought this project from its beginning. Alderman Michael D’Amato pointed out that that “the use is consistent with the General Planned Development, the height is consistent with the General Planned Development, and the massing is consistent with the General Planned Development” further he indicated the plan is simply receiving opposition from the same neighborhood members who opposed this project from the beginning indicating that taking further input was just a delaying tactic and at this point served no purpose. He appealed to the commission that “the anchors on Downer Avenue are dying” and that “I hope you will finally allow progress on Downer Avenue.” The Commission took his advice and recommended it for approval with the conditions that the developer works to shorten the balcony and continues to work with staff on improvements.

Another item of particular interest, Resolution 071292, pitted groups of citizens with positive intentions against each other. Specifically groups representing low income housing for the homeless and mentally ill ran into opposition from green and bicyclist enthusiasts due to the site location. The property in question was a city owned lot near the Kinnickinnic River that various groups had been planning to use for bike trails and green space. Alderman Tony Zielinski appeared upset over the proposed use of land and went on to say “we are setting a dangerous precedent by developing our green space”. The commission listened to his advice and held the resolution asking the Department of City Development to work with the developer to look for another site or improve the facility’s design to work better with the trail.

Categories: Real Estate

2 thoughts on “City Plan Commission Approves Downer Avenue Plan”

  1. G. Coleman says:

    This Downer iss has all been wrapped up now this week at ZND (again), with Peter Kovac, one of the plaintiffs against the City, himself declaring that those on HPC who were said to have scrubbed minutes and held closed meetings in violation of open records law were in fact “heroes” (Kovac’s word) which I suppose has to do with the fact that they worked out changes to the development plan that accommodated Kovac’s concerns despite the project already passing through the Common Council.

    So it looks like Kovac complained so much, the mayor had the HPC work out some changes with the developer, which violates the whole process since the project was already approved in a form that had passed through the relevant committees and full council. The HPC meetings judge Lamelas criticized were all in Kovac’s favor, but he is suing the City because of the clumsy way they were handled. In the recent ZND “redo” of the DPD modifications that are in Kovac’s favor, Kovac first defended the “heroes” on the HPC committee and later quoted Lamelas saying how they conducted their meetings (to get changes Kovac wanted) was “totalitarian.”

    This week the ZND let Kovac ramble (again) about all this for well over 20 minutes, and much of that time he spent on strange points about how the developer did make changes to accommodate him (Kovac) but these changes (in Kovac’s view) save the developer money anyway (despite having the project held up so long), so it’s not as if the developer is a good guy. Kovac finds this important and relevant information, apparently.

    See the whole thing here:

    The ongoing issue with Kovac’s lawsuit and the fact that it pressured the ZND into reviewing and reaffirming its former decision creates a dangerous precedent as Mr. Hagopian and Ald. Murphy noted at the meeting. (See video link above.) As noted by the attorneys for the city and the developer, Kovac essentially wants his property rights to mean that an adjacent property owner (the developer) cannot exercise his rights without Kovac’s say-so. And now that a judge has allowed a precedent to exist for a judicial review of City committees and council decisions on zoning and development, it is conceivable that anyone could now seek a legal/judicial review as a kind of referendum on development that trumps property owner’s rights and the City’s authority on development issues.

  2. Dave says:

    Oh yea I’ll have my comments out on that meeting today, and for the most part I agree with you and for the most part you have the details correct. Unfortunately you do have something wrong. When he called those HPC members “heros” he was referring to the appointed members. The people or person he is dragging through the mud is a dedicated member of DCD’s staff who as you point out was doing everything well beyond the call of duty to make it a little better for Kovac. And now he sues the city.

    PS You could of written my meeting notes for this ZND meeting!

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