Hide House Debate. Historic Preservation Or?
On Monday July 20th, General Capital will go before the Historic Preservation Commission and request permission to demolish a portion of the Hide House complex. This demolition would allow for the construction of a 60-unit affordable housing apartment building. At the previous meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission a nomination for historic status of the entire Hide House complex was requested by Alderman Zielinski, and despite various sections of the complex being of varying ages and having questionable historical importance the entire complex received historic status.
This designation seems questionable. For one it is questionable as other tanneries throughout Milwaukee with similar histories have not received historic designation. In fact a few tanneries have been demolished to allow for new development projects. For example, to make way for Mandel Group’s North End project the Pfister & Vogel Tannery on Water St. was demolished. Further, the Wisconsin Historical Society didn’t deem the complex worthy of historic status. Finally, and most importantly this designation is questionable, because of the statements by community residents and actions by leaders in opposition to this project that revolve around its “low-income,” component and issues unrelated to preservation. For example these are just a few of the comments and quotes on the topic:
This comment was left on the Bay View Compass article “Development struggle at Hide House,” by a user named Paul.
There are a few issues not addressed in this article.
First, No matter what it is called, it is still LOW income. Where else can you get a one bedroom apartment for $300? The going rate in Milwaukee is about $700. Low income usually brings in a bad element, even if it is not intended.
Second, there was standing room only at the hearing, all from the neighborhood and 95% were against this project. In fact, the article failed to mention that the owners had applied for a permit to tear down the building and start begin the process the day before the hearing…this seems like they have some other motive.
Third, this is a fairly landlocked area, and bringing in 60 units with 2 cars each would add a heck of a lot of traffic to my neighborhood, which has a lot of kids.
Finally, I will be presenting a request for a ground contamination study before any work can be done. Tanneries had often used Chromium and Mercury in their processes in the past. This entire site could be contaminated. The last thing we want is for a large number of poor people to get sick and then bring cases against the city for approving this project.
This comment was left on the Journal Sentinel article “Bay View apartments project at former tannery hits road block,” by Susan Robitaille.
Just to clarify…
These apartments are not ‘moderate income’, they are most definately LOW income. The residents were not allowed to speak about the upcoming development… it was merely a meeting (the first we were given by the way), to speak our minds about our feelings about the historic nature of the Hide House. In response to the person accusing anyone of racism… at what point is poverty a matter of race/color/creed? Not one person around here gives a rip about that sort of thing. There are all colors and cultures in this neighborhood and we celebrate our diversity.
The fear of a low-income housing rental structure in our neighborhood is the issue… along with the fact that there is no outlet to major streets, means we will have more cars racing down our quiet neighborhood.
Be real. Ask yourself if you would want that extra burden of traffic coming into your direct neighborhood… would you want the extra noise associated with that?
If low-income housing is so great… why not welcome it with open arms into your neighborhood? No? I thought not.
Low-income apartments, no matter how they are sugarcoated, will attract “undesirable” people.
These are just a few of the troubling statements being made regarding the Hide House Lofts project.
Another indication that this debate isn’t about historic preservation is that Alderman Zielinski didn’t bring this historic designation forward when General Capital Growth was intent on demolishing this section of the complex to build condominimums on the site. In fact it wasn’t until the project received WHEDA tax credits that the he nominated the complex for historic preservation. Further, according to the Bay View Compass, in an email dated June 17, 2009, sent from Alderman Zielinski to the developer, Alderman Zielinksi wrote:
In order to make sure the residents know exactly what you are proposing I am requesting a meeting where your staff can make a presentation to my constituents. Afterward, there can be Q and A etc. If you can convince my constituents that the ‘entire’ building should not be preserved then I will change my position. Whatever my constituents support then that is what I support.
It appears that Alderman Zielinski is saying his stance on the issue is based on constituent vote, not on whether or not this building deserves historic preservation. This is troubling to say the least. Now, it is possible that the Hide House complex deserves hisoric status, but these comments and actions makes it clear that the opposition to this development has little to do with historic preservation. This hurts the process, and does a disservice to our city.