Dave Reid

“We can put a wrench in the process”

By - Sep 8th, 2009 07:39 am

So says Jill Capicchioni, of the Historic Brewers Hill Association, in an email to the neighborhood mailing list.  The “process” that Jill is intent on putting a wrench in is the proposed move of the State Department of Health Services from the Marcia P. Coggs Human Services Center, 1220 W. Vliet St., to a remodeled space at 2151 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Dr.  This proposed move has quickly come under fire from neighborhood residents, for all sorts of reasons, and it doesn’t appear that this is a necessary move, as the current building was remodeled in 2004 at a cost of $12 million which makes this move questionable at best, and a waste of taxpayer dollars at worst.

But here’s the problem.  What is the wrench that Jill is suggesting to be used to stop this proposal?  Historic preservation.

In her email she suggests that someone files a request for historic designation of the proposed building at 2151 N. Martin Luther King Dr. in what is a transparent attempt to derail the process.  It is quite clear from her email that Jill’s intentions have nothing to do with historic preservation.  There have been far too many examples of when Milwaukee’s historic preservation laws have been twisted to block development projects, such as the Hide House, and the Palomar project, unfortunately the tactic is catching on.

From: brewershill@yahoogroups.com [mailto:brewershill@yahoogroups.com]
On Behalf Of

Sent: Tuesday, September 01, 2009 11:39 AM
To: brewershill@yahoogroups.com
Subject: Brewers Hill- Help regarding DHS relocation – Historic Preservation

Regarding the relocation of the State Department of Health
Services (DHS) from 1220 W. Vliet Street to
2151 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Drive.

We can put a wrench in the process by requesting that the buliding at 2151 N Dr. Martin Luther King Drive be grated temoporary Historic Designation by the City.
In order to do this we need help with filling out the form.
We need someone to volunteer to help with filling out the section of the document regarding the “significance of the structure”
See the following link:
http://www.mkedcd. org/build/ pdfs/EAppHistDes ig.pdf

We need to file this form ASAP so please email me if you can help!

Jill Capicchioni

When these tactics are used, it muddles the debate, and draws into question one’s motivations.  Unfortunately this exemplifies an ongoing, often seen, regularly scheduled problem, that is turning Milwaukee’s historic preservation laws into a sham.  Historic preservation laws aren’t supposed to be a “wrench,” to keep those people out, protect a view, preserve the status quo, stop a high-rise, or ensure a union deal, but instead to protect a significant piece of architectural work or history.  These tactics hurts real preservation efforts, and devalue the process.  Enough already.

Categories: Real Estate

28 thoughts on ““We can put a wrench in the process””

  1. Max says:

    Agreed. I someone should forward this to Alderman Zielinski.

  2. Alex says:

    Interesting… the Coggs Center is currently in our district (15), and serves its purpose quite well there. So, I’m not necessarily in favor of the move. (Not to mention the fact that the proposed new location is in a heavily residential area.) However, I do see the problem with using historic preservation as the “wrench” — or the hammer, for that matter. Something to keep an eye on for sure. Thanks for your good coverage!

  3. KS says:

    Definitely agree with this post, but I often wonder if the abuse of historic preservation is symptomatic of a lack of alternative avenues for raising opposition to a project. I don’t know if this is the case (and I wouldn’t agree with the opposition most often), but it’s something that has crossed my mind after seeing this come up time and again.

  4. MP says:

    Having been involved with the project, I too wish they would utilalize the Cogg’s Building, and that people would stop abusing Historic Preservation Laws.

    However, that said the Cogg’s building needs an exstensive renovation to meet the requirements needed in the state’s RFP released earlier this summer. The Property at 2151 N. King Drive is a wide open white box space which requires little alterations for the new inteded use. Although the building was renovated in 2004, the the new requirements would require much more work.

  5. Deep Throat says:

    From the Brewers Hill Neighborhood email network…

    Fellow neighbors,
    This post serves as a warning to everyone who posts here that your posts may be forwarded without your permission and shared. Your conduct on this site reflects on the entire neighborhood!

    To the person that forwarded my post last week about the DHS Building and Historic Preservation, You are a coward! You did not have the guts to contact me personally and express your disagreement with me or even post your disagreement on our message board. Rather you forwarded my post to David Reid of Urban Milwaukee. I stand behind my suggestion regarding historic preservation, we were left with no other avenue to stop the development.

    So to the person who forwarded my post, lets see if you want to step up to take over for the neighborhood as President?. Do you even come to any of the neighborhood meetings? Do you host neighborhood events at your house? Did you volunteer to pick up trash in the neighborhood each year? Did you help plan the annual Christmas party or picnic? Did you volunteer to create the neighborhood newsletter or website? Did you pass out flyers for any neighborhood events? Did you organize the block watch program?

    For those of you who have not seen the article please see the link below:

    Again my offer stands, if you think you can do a better job, I will resign my post as president. Feel free to contact me.

    Jill Capicchioni
    President, Historic Brewers Hill Association

  6. Jill Capicchioni says:

    If there is a loop-hole in the law then someone should lobby their alderperson to get it changed. Do not attack me for trying to protect my neighborhood Brewers Hill and Haylard Park, Bronzeville and The King Drive BID from the proposed DHS building.
    What was not reported was that the King Drive location was not “approved” by Alderwoman Coggs and the City. In fact the building owner promised Ms. Coggs and the City that he would withdraw his bid for the move to the DHS to his building, which he never did.
    I did nothing wrong by suggesting that we use Historic Preservation as a way to slow down the States idiotic plans to move the building.
    I find it interesting that everyone who has commented on this approach does not live near the proposed location?
    And by the way….good reporting would have concluded that no papers have been filed with the city for Historic Designation (and none are planned at this point).
    Thanks for the coverage David!
    Glad that more people are aware of the states plan to waste more tax payer money.

  7. Arnold says:

    I see that Ms. Capicchioni has a BS in urban planning and historic preservation. She also spoke recently about Brewers Hill at a meeting in Milwaukee for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It’s really irresponsible for her to openly promote such tactics.

  8. Jill Capicchioni says:

    Wow Deep Throat does that mean you are going to run? We do not have records of deep throat on our member list? Guess you have not paid your neighborood dues? Again, you are a coward! You have my phone give me a call and we can discuss when you want to take over as president!

  9. Dave Reid says:


    “If there is a loop-hole in the law then someone should lobby their alderperson to get it changed.”

    Raising awareness of an issue is the first step towards getting it addressed.

    “I did nothing wrong by suggesting that we use Historic Preservation as a way to slow down the States idiotic plans to move the building.”

    You suggested twisting historic preservation laws for another purpose, which is problematic and does a disservice to historic preservation. It is tactics like these that devalue the entire process, and make it political instead of fact based.

    “And by the way….good reporting would have concluded that no papers have been filed with the city for Historic Designation (and none are planned at this point).”

    I actually wanted to make sure this article ran prior to any papers being filed, so the motivations would be clear as day if they were ever filed. Further, the mere suggestion shows the flaw in the process.

    “I find it interesting that everyone who has commented on this approach does not live near the proposed location?”

    Irrelevant. The point is about misusing historic preservation laws that impact all our neighborhoods.

    Finally, I’m glad more people are aware of the project now as well.

  10. Sarah says:

    Moving DHS to MLK Drive is completely outrageous! MLK Drive is a HISTORIC commercial/retail street of which many folks have been working a long time to revitalize. It is also in the middle of a revitalizing residential area anchored by Brewers Hill, Harambee and Halyard Park – not to mention a significant part of Bronzeville – which is in the process of being developed. MLK Drive is in need of restaurants, retail, condominiums and other businesses to grow and flourish in order to come back to life. The DHS would be completely inappropriate on this street. First and foremost, there is not enough parking. Currently there is not enough parking for the businesses who already reside there. There are over 250 employees who would need parking each day at DHS and not to mention the 500-1,000 people who will visit the building each day. Where would they park? Has anyone seen how chaotic the traffic is already on that stretch? Secondly, there is nothing wrong with the current condition of the Coggs Center. There was $14 million dollars of tax payer money used to renovate the Coggs Center and there is no reason for the tax payers to pay another $14 million for another building. According to certain sources, the only thing wrong with the Coggs Building is the need for a new elevator…this will surely NOT cost $14 million dollars (the Coggs Building was also the #2 choice for the State’s RFP so obviously it meets the criteria). Milwaukee County and the state of Wisconsin are having a hard enough time with payroll these days let alone the funding for unnecessary projects. This money could be used in SO many other areas. Lastly, the residents of the Vilet Street area DO NOT want DHS to be moved from the Coggs Center. DHS is a part of their neighborhood and they want them to stay. In closing, moving the DHS to MLK Drive is not supported by the surrounding neighborhoods, Milwaukee County or the City of Milwaukee. But, that apparently does not seem to matter to the State of Wisconsin and stop them from moving forward with the process. Something needs to be done to stop this and I am so grateful the residents/business owners of the surrounding neighborhoods are taking an interest and doing something to stop this.

  11. Dave Reid says:

    @Sarah. That all might be true, but does that justify a misuse of historic preservation laws? Historic preservation laws of late in Milwaukee have been used to keep poor people out, fight for a union contract, preserve a parking lot, preserve a lake view, and now to stop DHS…. Do any of those things sound like historic preservation to you? The don’t to me, and this email was another, very clear, example of twisting our laws.

  12. Sarah says:

    @Dave. Point taken and I sincerely appreciate your views and knowledge regarding historic preservation laws. But moving forward, I think instead of bashing and criticizing Jill, we should all focus on a solution (a solution that everyone deems responsible and not abusive) for the bigger issue at hand and the root of the controversy: the impact of moving DHS to MLK Drive.

  13. Gregg says:

    I’ve left comments on your site previously and really enjoy reading your work. I live in Brewer’s Hill (since 2004) and also am the designer of record for the Hide House Lofts. I am intimate with the Historic Protection and Preservation ordinances in the City. I also know Jill quite well (as a friend and neighbor) and participate in much of the Brewer’s Hill Neighborhood events.

    The proposed move of the DHS facility to the King Drive BID and our historic neighborhoods is opposed due to the lack of parking (300+ employees and an incredible amount of daily visitors), safety of EVERYONE, proper and safe circulation through/to the site and building, security and proper facilities to accomodate the amount of clients proposed to be served by the facility. I’ve experienced the current facility on 1220 W. Vliet Street and find the situation for visitors and those passing through to be dangerous with pedistrians mixing with traffic, improper parking/stopping and general lack of consideration for anyone’s safety.

    The project, in my opinion seems to clearly fit into the “social service” use catagory within the MZCO (Zoning Code) which would require the user to apply to BOZA (Board of Zoning Appeals) for a “special use” permit which requires a public hearing and support from the Alderperson. For some reason, the City has decided that the project is a “government use” and does not require BOZA approval. Man, that’s a stretch (in my opinion).

    Given my exposure to the exhuberance and excellance of the City’s Historic Preservation staff, the Historic Preservation Commission, and knowing the cultural history and architectural significance of the former Schuster’s Building it would seem logical to include the historic considerations as had been applied to the former vacant (and under raze order) Parsonage for St. Marcus on North Avenue.

    The Schuster’s Building is the prominent structure in what was a high end shopping district for Milwaukean’s on Third Street. The facade of this once former grand structure is currently covered with a windowless thru-fastened metal building skin. I believe this building, currently located in a Federal Historic District could once again be a focal point for this part of the King Drive BID. The timing is incovienent yes, and the motive is definitely to slow what seems to be a headlong rush to push the DHS relocation to our neighborhood but, wouldn’t the return of the historic facade and the safe, well planned facility serving several hundred daytime employees be exactly what the Historic Protection ordinance is intended to do?

  14. Dave Reid says:

    @Gregg I’m all for the restoration and re-use of historic structures, what I question here is the use of the laws as a “wrench.” Just like we all saw with the Hide House, Goll Mansion, Downer Avenue, Palomar, and now DHS debates far too often these laws are used to stop development, preserve the status quo, and a variety of other less noble causes, not too to encourage the saving and restoring of structures which is the issue in question.

    When historic preservation laws are used or suggested to be used as a “wrench,” and not for preservation I will continue to point out that this hurts the goals of historic preservation.

  15. Dave Reid says:

    @Sarah To be clear Jill’s email is just one example of how historic preservation laws have been misused in Milwaukee as of late. Take a look at our Hide House articles for more on that. The bigger issue to me is the use of historic preservation laws, yes bigger than the DHS move, because time and time again they are used as the “wrench,” and not to save significant structures.

  16. Gregg says:

    Agree Dave! However, as the current ordinance is written, virtually anyone can nominate virtually any structure within the City for Historic Protection. Change the ordinance and process for nomination.

  17. Dave Reid says:

    @Gregg Oh I agree, but to accomplish that, pointing out examples of the problem is required before anyone or any politician will recognize there is an issue.

  18. Jill Capicchioni says:

    @Deep Throat. You are such a coward that you will not reveal your name? What do you have to hide? Who do you work for?
    I do not work in the Historic Preservation or Urban Planning field, or for a Developer, or for the City. So I have no need to hide my identity regarding my views behind a screen name.
    Again, I wonder who you are and who you work for?
    The State of Wisconsin? Maybe Coakley?
    The fact that you hide your identity shows that you have something to hide!
    I stand behind my views and all the work I do for MY neighborhood, do you?

  19. Gregg says:

    Ditto Dave……here’s another one for the cannon fodder, the former parsonage for St. Marcus on West North Avenue (no longer owned or affiliated with the Church) was nominated by a neighbor…..a rather benign request by a truly interested person in local history. The Historic staff did, in my opinion, an aggressive survey of the property and made a strong recommendation to provide temporary protection to the HPC. The building is/was under DNS raze order. It is vacant and in disrepair. In my opinion, the building has little exterior architectural significance with the exception of a beautifully detailed Gothic porch/entry.

    The building is in an area where at least three other local structures have fallen victim to an arsonist. The HPC approved the request for temporary historic protection which has the intended effect of delaying the razing of the building. The property is of dubious historic value, has virtually no tax value and could be a potential target for an active arsonist which could endanger the safety of surrounding neighbors (although we’ve got a fine group of Fire Fighter’s in the Palmer Station). The property owner (a Trust I believe) has no interest in improving the property and obviously can not sell (at the time of the request for historic protection).

    How was the public served or the property owner’s rights balanced with this action by the HPC?

  20. nltrwam says:

    How about someone pointing out the fact that the building did not even fall within the area as designated in the RFP? How about someone pointing out the fact that the DHS will neither improve the economy of the area or the ability to provide services to it’s customers. I am all for citizens doing what ever they have to do, within the law, to protect their own neighborhoods, safety and security. Especially when politicians can bend the laws however they want and create new ones to reward their supporters. Dave Reid, why don’t you do some real investigative journalism and find out why the state insists on this site when neither the local governments, neighborhoods nor the clientele want the DHS to relocate there?

    deep throat – you’re a loser.

  21. Dave Reid says:

    @nltrwam I’ve been covering the misuse of historic preservation laws for awhile here, and believe it is an important issue that doesn’t get covered by just about anyone else (Tom Daykin did some good work on the Hide House debate). These laws, and specifically their misuse, impact neighborhood after neighborhood, by limiting our tax base growth, keeping new residents out, and generally slowing the growth of Milwaukee, so when I see a case of where these laws are being used as a “wrench” it is newsworthy, and important.

    That’s not to say the potential DHS move is or isn’t important, just that this wrenching of the process is quite problematic.

  22. Karmen J says:

    Major points being missed:
    1. NO ONE in the City or County of any importance supports this decision. (Mayor, State Representative, State Supervisors, Aldermen, Building Commissioner, etc are ALL opposed yet this seems to still have legs?)
    2. This location is outside of the States preferred zone
    3. It’s a blatant waste of money due to what appears to be a squabble between the State and County. $12-$14 million was spent less that 5 years ago to build the Coggs center, why would they start over again?
    4. This MLK location has 29 parking spots of which 400 are required for the State RFP. Why is this still even on the table? RFP’s are STRICT…this location should have been cut for this reason alone.
    5. This is clearly the biggest waste of our STATE dollars I have seen thus far. It scares me to think that these spendthrifts are driving our boat. Did they not hear that there is a recession, and its a good idea to CUT irrational spending?

  23. Dave Reid says:

    @Karmen J
    Good points, not what the article is about, but good points nonetheless.

  24. Karmen J says:

    BTW…. It seems very cowardly to cut forward an email from a neighborhood website to someone outside of that site without permission. Especially when it appears the point that is being argued was WAY out of context.
    I’d imagine that Jill is trying to preserve her neighborhood and has exhausted other options. This whole project does appear to be a “thank you” from our friend Doyle to Mr Coakley on his way out of office.

    Dont kid yourself…This does not just affect the area it would be moved to by any means. THIS IS A WASTE OF EVERY PERSON IN WISCONSINS TAX DOLLARS. Dont feel like it’s only a Brewer Hill/Downtown Milwaukee issue. Its so much bigger than that.

  25. Dave Reid says:

    @Karmen J Quite frankly I find it bothersome/troubling that the Brewers Hill mailing list is cutoff to “outsiders,” as if the goings on there don’t impact the rest of Milwaukee. Further, when someone let alone the President of a neighborhood group suggests using historic preservation laws as a “wrench,” i.e. to misuse the law, it is newsworthy.

  26. Rob Seetan says:

    I think I am missing something here. Is the proposed site an historic preservation project or not? If it is’nt then I see nothing wrong with using the neigborhood desigination as a proper defense agiainst an undesirable property. This happens all the time, it’s called American politics (unfortunately).

  27. Dave Reid says:

    @Rob Simply because something happens all the time, does not make it right.

  28. Great discussion. These are really two issues that are both important.

    1) The misuse of historic preservation.

    While I don’t at all condone the use of this for a purpose that has nothing to do with historic preservation, I also can’t entirely blame neighborhoods that conduct this strategy if they feel that they have no other quality avenues with which to oppose a development. The appropriate ordinances should be rewritten to make it more difficult, hopefully impossible, to hijack historic preservation in this type of way. Certainly, the Hide House situation was big enough to let the common council see the destructive misuse of HP, and they have the means to do something about it.

    Neighborhoods have the right to oppose developments, just not through HP. Use other methods where the reason for opposition is clear and not shrouded in code. If such other options don’t exist or aren’t strong enough, then that’s another issue that the common council should take up.

    2) The move of the State Department of Health Services

    I’m not privy to all of the facts, but if it’s true that the proposed site does not meet RFP standards and if it’s true that the developer would have to go through BOZA (due to a legitimate “social service” designation) and isn’t doing so, then there is the potential for legal action to remedy the situation. At the very least, city officials, if truly opposed to the move, ought to be able to put a stop to it through myriad of strategies.

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