Jeramey Jannene

Commission Recommends Historic Designation for Sydney Hih Building, Fuse Still Lit

The Historic Preservation Commission recommended approval of interim historic designation for the Sydney Hih building, though the future of the building remains very much in doubt.

By - Jun 7th, 2012 01:03 pm
Sydney Hih Sign Removal

Sydney Hih Sign Removal

The Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) recommended approval of interim historic designation for the Sydney Hih building, though the future of the building remains very much in doubt. In one of the odder scenarios ever seen before the commission, a shell corporation owned by the City of Milwaukee is attempting to tear down the Sydney Hih building. The building was acquired in an attempt to assemble land for the relocation of Kohl’s corporate headquarters to the Park East area, an effort that Kohl’s opted not to further pursue earlier this year.

The Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee will take up the interim historic designation at their next meeting. Given that there is a standing raze order, a demolition permit could be issued at some point in the future. Today’s proceedings at the very least will slow the city’s efforts to demolish the building, and likely give the city pause on issuing a demolition permit to itself.

An Interim Designation Study Report was provided to the commission that we have made available on our site, as well as a link to the file in Legistar.

We live tweeted the special meeting of the Historic Preservation Commission today, an edited transcript of which is provided below. You can read the original tweets at @UMKELive.

  • 9:13 – HPC begins promptly at 9:12 am… What will happen to the Sydney Hih? – Dave Reid
  • 9:14 – Sept 21st, 2009 HPC recommended historic preservation. – Dave Reid
  • 9:15 – A little background on the buildings from @razedinmke – Dave Reid
  • 9:15 – The demolition permit is on hold because of the designation request. – Dave Reid
  • 9:16 – This would not cover building formerly with Sydney Hih sign on it. That building could not be nominated again until 2013. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 9:18 – Is this one building or four? That is a key question, buildings weren’t joined together until 1971. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 9:18 – “I’m easily confused” Blair Williams, he asks who really owns the building? – Dave Reid
  • 9:18 – “MEDC wholly owns this building” Blair – Dave Reid
  • 9:20 – MEDC is Milwaukee Economic Development Corporation, an arm of the City of Milwaukee. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 9:20 – “do we have the applicant here” – Ald Bauman – dr
  • 9:21 – Alderman Bauman appears more than willingly to help applicants as best he can. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 9:21 – “you were told you couldn’t nominate the corner building” Ald Bauman speaking to the applicants – Dave Reid
  • 9:22 – Ald Bauman continues expressing his concern that the Aty told the applicants they couldn’t nominate the corner building – Dave Reid
  • 9:22 – Alderman Bauman noting that MEDC is the City of Milwaukee, make no mistake. Park by him, same paycheck as him. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 9:22 – “This fight is all under one big tent, and that tent says City of Milwaukee on it” Ald Bauman – Dave Reid
  • 9:24 – Attendance lower than I expected. Only about 20 people in attendance. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 9:25 – “we want to nominate the whole complex” applicant” Noah Skowronski- Dave Reid
  • 9:26 – Noah S stating that he believes as applicants they have been purposely misled. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 9:28 – Blair Williams stating that the amount of repair needed is a completely separate issue. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 9:28 – Ald Bauman will amend application to include all four buildings.- Dave Reid
  • 9:29 – “The application was in fact for the entire area” Jim Owczarski – Dave Reid
  • 9:30 – “There’s no defect in notice” Jim Owczarski – Dave Reid
  • 9:30 – Blair notes that his opinion of saving three side buildings would change if iconic one is destroyed. App needs to include Sen building – Jeramey Jannene
  • 9:31 – “If the City of Milwaukee were to appeal itself to the ZND” Blair- Dave Reid to overturn the nomination
  • 9:31 – No defect in notice means no need to adjourn and send out new notices, as Bauman suggested might be necessary. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 9:31 – A little background… the original designation – Dave Reid
  • 9:33 – “This building has been around for over 130 years.” Noah Skowronski- Dave Reid
  • 9:33 – Alderman Jim Bohl, ZND committee chair, now in attendance. He is not a member of HPC. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 9:34 – “There’s no standing development waiting for that building to be torn down” Noah Skowronski – Dave Reid
  • 9:36 – Applicants continue to state they want to avoid “big legal argument,” yet that is exactly what this is. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 9:37 – This would be very simple if the city told the city okay timeout. -Bauman – Jeramey Jannene
  • 9:37 – “we’re not trampling private property here, it’s city property” Ald Bauman – Dave Reid
  • 9:38 – “if we are concerning all of it, we’re a simply affirming our previous designation” Blair W. – Dave Reid
  • 9:38 – “we’ll let the city sue the city” Ald Bauman – Dave Reid
  • 9:41 – How did we get here? Ald Bauman’s legal move at ZND that bought some time – Dave Reid
  • 9:42 – HPC will consider the matter, potentially setting up an awkward legal fight with city against city. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 9:44 – HPC Staff presenting a historical background to the buildings.- Dave Reid
  • 9:44 – Report to HPC notes building was built to last. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 9:47 – HPC Staff pointing out sunburst details on Frankfurt building. – Dave Reid
  • 9:48 – Alan Eisenberg just arrived at meeting. His father was Sydney Eisnberg who united complex of buildings in 71. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 9:49 – Blair asks if the 312-318 w juneau building’s windows were removed by the current ownership? – Dave Reid
  • 9:51 – “it’s a reminder of Kilbourntown’s early history” hpc staff – Dave Reid
  • 9:52 – Just yesterday the Letters were removed from the Sydney HIh
  • 9:53 – “Milwaukee’s sole reminder of America’s counter culture” – hpc staff- Dave Reid
  • 9:53 – “Sydney Hih is city’s sole reminder of counter culture movement” “- staff report – Jeramey Jannene
  • 9:53 – “a very early attempt at adaptive re-use” HPC Staff – Dave Reid
  • 9:54 – “it was a new way to market art” HPC Staff – Dave Reid
  • 9:58 – “for interim designation it meets a number of the criteria” HPC Staff- Dave Reid
  • 9:58 – The building was repainted in 2000 in an attempt to sell it. Covering the colorful paint job. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 10:01 – Ald Bauman asks HPC Staff (Carla) to specify the new information… Blair adds “the 20th century information” – Dave Reid
  • 10:02 – “you have to look at it as a whole for its Sydney Hih era importance.” staff testimony – Jeramey Jannene
  • 10:03 – Erik Ljung “it’s an icon of the creative class in Milwaukee” – Dave Reid
  • 10:03 – Erik Ljung – windows were removed last week. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 10:05 – “Individuals are concerned with the lack of public input” Noah Skowronski – Dave Reid
  • 10:06 – Noah S stating how difficult it is to understand things at HPC – City Hall. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 10:07 – Now playing Noah Skowronski’s Save Sydney Hih video.. – Dave Reid
  • 10:08 – Blair Williams “I assume this is rated G?” Yes. JJ
  • 10:09 – Discussion about Unicorn Club in basement where Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Green Day and others played. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 10:13 – Very meta moment, Bauman leaning back in chair, hands together, watching video of Bauman leaning back in chair, hands together.- Jeramey Jannene
  • 10:17 – Sydney Hih Building facebook group – Dave Reid
  • 10:18 – HPC calling owner forward. Outside atty Brian Randall, representing City of Milwaukee, comes forward. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 10:19 – The city purchased the property on November 30th, 2011 – Jeramey Jannene
  • 10:20 – “MEDC took this step at the request of the commissioner of city development” Brian Randall – Dave Reid
  • 10:21 – The intent of my client was to effectively to demolish the structure to promote economic development. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 10:22 – Lead paint and asbestos have been removed by city. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 10:22 – “the inside is a maze” Brian Randall – Dave Reid
  • 10:23 – “There are numerous floors that cannot be walked on.” Randall- Jeramey Jannene
  • 10:26 – Blair points out you wouldn’t argue with DNS (department of neighborhood services) if they were giving you something you want.- Jeramey Jannene
  • 10:27 – “Have you appealed this raze order?” Ald Bauman – Dave Reid
  • 10:27 – Brian Randall “No”
  • 10:27 – “this is a little dance, you’re being paid by the City of Milwaukee” Ald Bauman – Dave Reid
  • 10:28 – Bauman grilling Randall to point out that his client is the city getting permits from the city. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 10:31 – Randall pointing out bulging and bricks falling away.. – Dave Reid
  • 10:32 – Blair stops Randall’s presentation, as he explains that shape of the building isn’t relevant to the designation process. – Dave Reid
  • 10:33 – Blair Williams points out demolition permit standards are different than designation standards. Not relevant to HPC’s decision. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 10:35 – “we’ll stipulate that the building’s in bad shape” Ald Bauman – Dave Reid
  • 10:36 – “please respect our intelligence” Ald Bauman to Randall – Dave Reid
  • 10:36 – Bauman again taking it to Randall. Chairwoman trying to cut him off. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 10:38 – Randall argues they can’t designate the building for designation until Sept of 2013
  • 10:42 – To clarify Randall’s argument is they can’t nominate the Senn building – Dave Reid
  • 10:45 – “the owner before you is irrelevant” Randall – Dave Reid
  • 10:45 – “I know this isn’t legal” says the Chairwoman, probably not a good way to start something towards a lawyer. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 10:45 – Yes, that is not the new information, the new information is the counter culture history – Dave Reid
  • 10:46 – “the specter of self benefit looms” Blair – Dave Reid
  • 10:48 – “there’s no contract that could have control the common council” Randall – Dave Reid
  • 10:50 – If the city wants to sue the city, that’s just beautiful. – Bauman – Jeramey Jannene
  • 10:51 – Almost two hours in and there is still debate on if HPC can designate the Most iconic building. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 10:53 – Mary from City Aty’s office. If designation today, it would delay demolition – Dave Reid
  • 10:53 – Assistant City Attorney now speaking, attempting to clarify. Demolition permit could not happen tomorrow. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 10:55 – “all that’s happening now is that the demo permit is on hold” Assistant City Attorney – Dave Reid
  • 10:55 – Under language of ordinance, demo permit could be issued even if building is designated by full Common Council. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 10:58 – Randall argues that the new information could have been presented so it cant’ be considered. – Dave Reid
  • 11:02 – “I have been in municipal law for over ten years and my opinion has been ignored many times.” Assistant City Attorney – Jeramey Jannene
  • 11:03 – Gail Fitch now testifying in support of designation. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 11:05 – Blair Willams argues that new development, The Moderne, constitutes new information opening avenue for designation. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 11:08 – Jessica St John speaking in support of designation. Says she hung out at Unicorn. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 11:09 – Loyal Order of Water Buffalo became original bass player in Black Eyed Peas says St John. Info that she says couldn’t have been known in 09
  • 11:10 – “it’s one of the things that makes Milwaukee, Milwaukee” St. John – Dave Reid
  • 11:11 – New information that couldn’t have been known in 2009 is important as it would allow designation of Senn building if HPC chooses so. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 11:12 – More testimony in support, Doug Quigland (sp?). “difference between east side and west side of downtown is vast” – Jeramey Jannene
  • 11:12 – Doug Q “this is a continuation of old world third street” – Dave Reid
  • 11:13 – Doug is arguing that this is a pedestrian friendly building in an area of city that lacks them. Says it is extension of 3rd Street. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 11:13 – Doug Q “it’s are only connection to what Juneau Ave once was.” – Dave Reid
  • 11:14 – Doug Q “we don’t want a generic city, we want our past” “there’s no excuse to tear it down” – Dave Reid
  • 11:15 -Doug Q “if it’s gone it’s gone forever” – Dave Reid
  • 11:16 – Alan Eisenberg speaking. His father was Sydney Eisenberg, the Sydney of Sydney Hih. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 11:17 – Eisenberg notes inspiration for painting came from SF’s Fisherman’s Wharf Godiva chocolate factory. – Jeramey Jannene
  • 11:17 – Alan Eisenberg “my dad, he wanted Milwaukee to have a piece of San Francisco” (his dad was Sydney) – Dave Reid
  • 11:21 – “once he died the city came after my mother like the wrath of god” Allen – Dave Reid
  • We reached at Twitter rate limit at this point, and finished the event tweeting at Dave’s personal account @ReidDave
  • 11:35 – “that joint is the sole of the city” “leave it stand” Alan Eisenberg – Dave Reid
  • 11:36 – Erin “place-making is an economic tool” and expressed the connection between history and the creative class
  • 11:38 – Erik Ljung the built environment and history helped drew him to Milwaukee – Dave Reid
  • 11:39 – “there’s no reason to tear it down” Erik Ljung – Dave Reid
  • 11:40 – “allow the public to have their say” Noah Showronski – Dave Reid
  • 11:49 – Aty Randall argues substantial evidence is a high standard. – Dave Reid
  • 11:52 – Motion made to close the public hearing portion – Dave Reid
  • 11:53 – Ald Bauman makes motion to approve for the entire complex – Dave Reid
  • 11:54 – “It’s clear we have received a substantial amount of new evidence” – Ald Bauman – Dave Reid
  • 11:56 – Blair seconded the motion… approved unanimously – Dave Reid… adjourned at 11:56 am

7 thoughts on “Commission Recommends Historic Designation for Sydney Hih Building, Fuse Still Lit”

  1. Juli Kaufmann says:

    I’ll restore it and redevelop it if somebody else can fund it. Anyone?

  2. Andrew says:

    It’s most likely that the Common Council will override the Historic Preservation Commission’s recommended approval of interim historic designation. All four of these buildings cannot be saved, and they need to be torn down. It’s time to say goodbye to Sidney Hih.

  3. Dave Reid says:

    @Andrew It is? I’m not sure I know that yet. And what exactly is the need to tear them down?

  4. Andrew says:

    @Dave Reid All four buildings are unsafe health hazzards. You cannot walk on most of the floors, the facades are crumbling, and the electrical system is outdatted. Also, it doesn’t fit in with The Moderine. Overall, it would cost less to tear it down instead of restoring it in this case. No matter how much it gets cleaned up Sidney Hih cannot be save.

  5. Dave Reid says:

    @Andrew I’m aware it is in bad shape (it seems made worse once MEDC bought the building and removed the billboard), but I’m also aware of a redevelopment plan to save another historic building here in Milwaukee that literally has a tree growing through it. And understand a ‘raze’ order doesn’t mean a building must be demo’d, there is a second option. Fix it. It can be done.

    Now you’re probably right we’ll be Milwaukee and just put in a new a parking lot, but it doesn’t have to be that way. We don’t always have to settle.

    It doesn’t fit with the Moderne? Huh, see here’s the thing it fits just fine. Styles and eras are different but both get some key design principals right (both hold the corner, a maintains the streetwall). Further, part of what makes cities interesting is a variety, not a monotony (hello suburbs) of styles.

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