Dave Reid

Committee Approves UWM Dorm Plan

By - Dec 10th, 2008 11:36 am
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Kenilworth and Farwell

Kenilworth and Farwell

Two significant East Side projects, New Land Enterprises’ Kenilworth apartment building and Mandel Group’s dormitory proposal, were on the agenda for this committee meeting.

First up was New Land Enterprises’ Kenilworth apartment building proposal.  This proposal had been held at the previous committee meeting to allow for an “informational” meeting with the neighborhood.  As the committee had indicated at the prior meeting they felt that overall this was a positive development for the city.  It was approved and will now go before the full Common Council.



Bob Monnat, the chief operating officer of Mandel Group, pointed out four items of note regarding the proposed UMW dormitory project.  First, he noted that this project has received unanimous support from the East Side BID.  Secondly, he explained that UWM has as of the time of the meeting, committed in writing to expand several safety programs.  Thirdly, he noted that Mandel Group has voluntary offered to met at least an 18 percent EBE requirement and he referred to how bad the economy has been for contractors when he said, “Boy do these guys need it.”  Finally he pointed out that they’ve been working on this plan since June, and having spent a considerable amount of time engaging the neighborhood, wish to move forward so they can begin work in the next ninety days.

Each year 90 percent of incoming freshman at UWM apply for university housing but because of the shortage of beds thousands are turned away each year.  David Gilbert, UWM Foundation President, pointed to national research that indicates, as he said, “student success is directly tied to the ability to live in university housing.”  He went on to explain that because of this potential positive impact on student grades this is one of the driving factors behind the efforts to build new dormitories.

Tom Luljak, Vice Chancellor of University Relations and Communications, stated that “we believe these investments are already making a difference,” and pointed to their research that indicates that there are 300 fewer students living in the neighborhoods since the opening of the RiverView dorm.  He added that  “we, like the neighbors believe that quality of life is absolutely essential,” and went on to explain how the university views the East Side as a recruiting tool.

Alderman Bob Bauman said he would support this project but wondered why the university wouldn’t even consider building a dormitory downtown.  He pointed to a part of downtown Chicago that is home to 50,000 college students explaining that this student population supports retail and improves downtown Chicago’s vibrancy.  He took the opportunity to express his near anger over UWM’s proposed expansion of the Engineering school to Wauwatosa, saying that “I’ve been frankly dying to make these points known.”  He made it clear to UWM that they need to consider downtown for future dormitories and implicitly for the Engineering school when he said that “I will never support another UWM dorm project on the East Side.”

Alderman Nik Kovac reiterated Alderman Bauman’s comments regarding UWM’s expansion plans saying, “build those satellite campuses downtown.”  He then explained the long process that this project has gone through and spelled out the criteria he expected the new dormitory and UWM to respect.

  • The setback and height restrictions should respect the overlay district guidelines.
  • The building should be LEED certified and has green features.
  • The site should include public access to the river trails.
  • The PILOTS payment is large enough to cover the city costs.
  • UWM would commit in writing to expanding its neighborhood safety programs.

He indicated that UWM and the development team had met these criteria and the project should move forward.

Only Teresa Kinis, the Chair of the Riverside Park Neighborhood Association, appeared in opposition and she reiterated her previously stated reason saying that, “I’m more concerned with the end client.”  Alderman Willie Wade speaking to Teresa and the broader audience, summed up an often forgotten point, when he said that “we never get 100% consensus.” Explaining that sometimes they have to make tough decisions and in this case he was supporting this project.  The resolution was approved and will now go before the full Common Council.

Categories: Real Estate

5 thoughts on “Committee Approves UWM Dorm Plan”

  1. Joe Klein says:

    The following is a continuation of the dialog started at http://urbanmilwaukee.com/2008/12/09/hometown-dorm-site-city-plan-commission-december-8th-2008-meetings-notes/

    @Dave: As far as I know the RFP did not mentioned a downtown site, nor did the foundation solicit in any way a downtown site. Putting dorms downtown would embarrassingly underscore the fact that UWM is ignoring all public efforts to put the Engineering School downtown. As for your comment on density, all the good things you say about student density defiantly apply to downtown, but are questionable on the East Side.
    Collage student density is a poor substitute for stable owner occupied neighborhoods. UWM’s increase in enrollment is directly responsible for the decline of owner occupied housing on the East Side. As you may know, as blocks dip below 50% owner occupancy, they tend to exhibit signs of decline.
    A faux market has been created. Absentee investors pay premiums for shabby duplexes so they can suck 2500 a month out of the pockets of students and out of the city to Brookfield and Mequon. The speculator inflated property values are devastating to retirees, young families, and ultimately to the tax base of Milwaukee. The dorms first effect on reducing student demand will be on the periphery not the center. Given the enrollment increases over the last decade, the net result will be minimum.
    A high density of students does negatively impact residential neighborhoods. The blatant disregard for civil and neighborly behavior, which is most prominent among white male freshman of suburban origins, creates an environment hostile to both serious academics and families. Frat houses are cute, but not distributed over a four-mile radius and intermixed with owner occupied residences.
    A four-year effort by CWNA to get UWM to develop a meaningful walk to work program has resulted in some nice color brochures and a net total of *four* staff/faculty families locating in the 3rd district. Like the broken link on http://www4.uwm.edu/univ_rel/neighborhood_rel/index.cfm point to the NAs, UWMs efforts ooze good PR and poor results.
    As for the support you cite … Of course fast food joints and liquor outlets will greedily rub their hand at the prospect of 700 new customers. As for the North Avenue BID’s support, they are getting a 5K kickback from the foundation for supporting the dorm.

    @Matthew: I do not understand how you can truthfully state that students cover 100% of the cost of the dorms or the extended UWM police coverage. As a property owned by a non-profit institution, the dorm pays no property tax. That is clearly a taxpayer subsidy. Student tuition does not cover 100% of the cost of running UWM. It is subsidized by the state. Put the dollar in with one hand and take it out with another, one way or other taxpayers pay. Feel free to post data that proves otherwise.

    @Milwaukee H: Smarmy remarks are counterproductive to civil discourse.

    @MilwaukeeD: If you have not noticed, our County Executive is an anti-urbanist and a suburban shill. His vision for Milwaukee is as modern as the forty-eight star flag he stands in front of on the County web site. Hell will freeze over before he advocates using Park East land for UWM. I would rank the probability of a Walker supported downtown UWM at the same odds as Walker requesting money from the Obama administration to build light rail. A smart County Executive would give the land to UWM. The resulting increase in taxable value in the surrounding blocks will more than offset the donated land value.

    @Jeremy: Come bloggers and the press to our next meetings with UWM regarding issues like neighborhood stability and walk to work. Learn first hand how well the administration and H Carl Mueller spin the press, and spin City Hall.
    Look guys, UWM needs to shoulder it moral obligation to be a good neighbor and a good Milwaukee citizen. UWM has great subject matter experts in economic development and urban planning, it is a shame that they don’t consult their own subject matter experts on how to best contribute to Milwaukee. The administration prefers to hire out of town consultants because paid consultant will give Santiago what he wants to hear. I am confident that if they did consult the good people at Urban Studies and the Center for Economic Development, that they would produce a long term plan that both turns around the East Side and makes UWM the linchpin of both Downtown and Milwaukee’s economic and social renaissance.

    Three cheers for Alderman Kovac and Alderman Bauman advocating for downtown!

  2. Matthew says:

    If you as a taxpayer want to take credit for paying for the dorms then perhaps you should actually contribute towards them, because right now all the costs for the dorms are being paid for by the students that use them. I don’t know what your accounting background is, or your knowledge of university finances, so I will try to keep this simple.
    The dorms are a non-academic program, and like several other programs such as the UWM police department, and athletics at UWM are run through segregated accounts. What that means is that financially the program is independent, and that all of their funding is through mandatory user fees which are paid by the students in addition to the cost of tuition. If you were to track the revenue generated by the dorms though user fees and housing costs, and track the expenditures such as the costs for maintaining, operating, and building new dorms, you would find that dorms actually pay for themselves and run a pretty large surplus (I want to say it is actually several million dollars a year) Yes the dorms require state approval to get built, but that is the only time the state gets involved with dorms. When you look at where the funding for building them comes from it is entirely from the students.
    Taxpayers pay a small portion of tuition, a portion which can vary depending on your accounting methods. I could make a pretty strong argument that it is actually now less than 20% because of several unfunded mandates which have been passed down from the state, such as the free tuition for vets which just got approved 2 years ago and caused my tuition to go up 7% because the stated decided that they wanted to mandate that all vets get free tuition, but then never allocated any funding to pay for it. Thus the students who had to pay tuition were left having to pay additional tuition so that vets could have a free ride.
    A second thing about the states claim to paying a portion of tuition is that they don’t actually look at the full costs for a student to attend a school. When the government says they are paying 25% of tuition (or whatever they currently claim they are paying) what they are looking at is just the base tuition, and the UW system as a whole. Most schools also have differential tuition which is paid per credit and which adds another 10-15% to the cost of tuition, and then there are segregated fees. Segregated fees at UWM are around $400 a semester, and are used to pay for all the non-academic programs on campus such as athletics, and clubs, and whatnot.
    When I look at my tuition bill for next semester I have a $3,200 charge for tuition and a $750 charge for differential tuition which is charged based on which classes I take, and then I have 2 segregated charges, a variable fee of $150, and a fixed fee of $240. In addition if I lived in the dorms, I would have an additional fee of $3000+ for rent, as well as a mandatory meal plan which for the semester which would be an additional $1000.

    Secondly as far as not paying taxes, the dorms still pay a PILOT or Payment in Lieu of Taxes which is almost exactly the same as taxes, except that while your taxes might not increase every year, the PILOT amount does increase at a set rate.

  3. Eric Gunderson says:

    Subject: UWM Dorm: Lost Diversity in our Near-neighborhood
    > >
    > > A freshman student dorm defines a neighborhood,
    > much of its future development, and who chooses to live in
    > that neighborhood.
    > > My family spent a decade in the University of
    > Wisconsin Milwaukee neighborhood. For years we watched as
    > families, longtime residents, owner occupants, block watch
    > captains, and other committed residents packed up and left
    > in search of a good nights sleep, glass/garbage free yards,
    > and a more livable neighborhood.
    > Five years ago my family also fled the UWM
    > neighborhood. We moved across the river to Riverwest and
    > even though we still have a large population of students
    > from MATC, MSOE, Marquette, and UWM, they tend to be older,
    > more familiar with living in the city, and quieter. We have
    > been very impressed with the balance that seemed to evolve
    > here in Riverwest between these mature student residents and
    > the very diverse population of families, working class, and
    > professionals.
    > >
    > > Last year the Riverview Dorm,(a 488 student
    > Freshman dorm built on parkland along the Milwaukee
    > River), was imposed on Riverwest against the documented
    > objections of over 650 neighbors. In one years time the
    > effect on diversity of that neighborhood, my neighborhood,
    > has been dramatic. An elderly neighbor had her rent raised
    > and had to move out. Her apartment was re-rented to a group
    > of young people. Our city block has suffered the loss of
    > eleven African American neighbors. Two units were families
    > with children that my kids used to enjoy playing with.
    > Unfortunately, the sound of young children playing out front
    > in a racially diverse neighborhood has been replaced with
    > racing cars and motorcycles, cell phone conversations at
    > 2:30am, and horn beeping…the sounds of our new
    > white/teenage/college neighbors.
    > > I understand the importance of a strong research
    > university for Milwaukee. Perhaps the first research project
    > should be on how UWM can expand without re-engineering the
    > social make-up and diversity of a neighborhood (economic,
    > race, age, etc.). The effects of a large freshman dormitory
    > in a residential neighborhood are to big to ignore.

  4. Joe Klein says:

    @Matthew I am not against the state funding UWM. I think education is an investment. I’m not against students either, but expansion on the East Side should stopped and be reversed. I want UWM to acknowledge and correct the negative impact they have had on owner occupancy on the East Side. I think the Kenwood Campus should primarily be the Collage of Letters and Science Campus.

    I want expansion Downtown, where I believe it will most benefit the local and regional economy. Where low income members of our society can get janitorial and service jobs to support the students and walk to work. Downtown, where students can rub shoulders with bankers and venture capitalists. Downtown, where students can find internships with Johnson Controls, Rockwell, NML and Manpower. A major Downtown expansion of UWM is a win-win for the East Side, for Downtown, for UWM, and for the students.

    But the argument I have with you is youre claim that you pay 100% of the cost of the dorms, which I claim you do not. What is the PILOT for Riverview Dorms vs the tax payment if it was a commercial building? Do the dorms really pay for themselves or do the generate positive cash flow? Sandburg maybe has covered its capital costs at this point, but having no hard numbers, that would be a guess. Milwaukee guaranteed the bonding for the Riverview project, is that not a form of subsidy? The Riverview Dorm PILOT does not go to Milwaukee County, but Milwaukee County has jurisdiction along the river, and patrols that area. If the government gives you a service that you do not pay for it is a subsidy. … and I am not against subsidies, I just think it is bogus to claim the students pay 100%. If you want to argue numbers … show your math.

    I am sorry the state legislature decided to screw the students with the bill for their “generous” gift to our veterans, yes taxpayers should pay the bill. Educating vets at UWM will mean less homeless and unemployed vets down the road; it will save the state money in the long run. The legislature should live up to its promise to the veterans and pay for the tuition.

    As a last point … What is the PILOT for Sandburg Hall?

    Students are supposed to learn critical thinking, you sound like your getting some of your talking point from the UWM administration. These UWM officials are the same folks giving away more of your segregated fee paid services to appease the Neighborhood Associations. They are offering bus shuttles and UWM police protection to the satellite dorms and the neighborhoods in-between.

    A nice compact urban university with dorms on unsold Park East lands will increase the value of Downtown, and in the long run, cost UWM and the students less.

  5. Dave Reid says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I hope UWM puts the Engineering school downtown and even building a dorm for that school downtown. That said, that is a different issue.

    UWM still has a need for housing of non-Engineering grad students, and generally speaking students achieve higher GPAs and are more likely to graduate the closer they live to campus, so of course UWM would look to build close to the campus. Further by not building dorms the demand for low cost student housing will only increase and further encourage people to rent out homes to students.

    I also find it interesting to see the argument that building dorms downtown would increase property values but apparently anywhere in the 3rd district it would supposedly hurt property values (though Eric’s comments above indicate RiverView has increased property values – i.e. rent went up).

    Finally, this site took what essentially was a brownfield and converts it into a respectable building that will activate the street. Not only that but the population density will support local business, and likely spur economic development along North Avenue.

    I could go on and on, but well that’s enough for now..

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