Dave Reid

Potential Sydney HIH Savior Comes Forward with Proposal

Preliminary renderings of what a restored Sydney HIH complex surface.

By - Jul 2nd, 2012 06:58 pm
Senn Building Preliminary Rendering

Senn Building Preliminary Rendering

The Sydney HIH complex has been fast approaching its last day, unless an effort by local developer John Raettig and his firm Raettig Redevelopment can be explored.

At the June 26th meeting of the Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee (ZND), the committee voted in favor of  the Milwaukee Economic Development Corporation’s (MEDC) appeal of the Historic Preservation Commission’s June 7th, 2012 action to designate the complex as historic.  The committee vote set the stage for this upcoming Friday’s meeting of the Common Council. If the full council were to uphold the vote, it would clear the way for the City of Milwaukee to move forward on the complex’s demolition.

During the appeal process at the ZND meeting, Ald. Terry Witkowski stated  “if there was some savior” for the buildings that they would have already come forward.  Maybe not.  It now appears that a proposal has surfaced to save the complex.

During the meeting Raettig, who is responsible for the redevelopment of the Johnson Bank building (portion of the Follansbee Block) and the Cawker Building, spoke about the impacts of demolishing historic buildings saying, “each time we lose one, we lose an opportunity.”  Apparently not fearing the city-estimated $6.6 million price tag to restore the complex, Raettig burned the midnight oil to put together an initial design to save the Sydney HIH complex.  Raetting is attempting to give the Sydney HIH, and in turn Milwaukee, that very opportunity. Hopefully the Milwaukee Common Council will return the favor.

The renderings below are his first view of what could be done to the complex. As evident from the renderings, Raettig intends to restore the buildings as individual properties.



16 thoughts on “Potential Sydney HIH Savior Comes Forward with Proposal”

  1. Zach W says:

    Looks like a promising plan….I just hope it’s not too late.

  2. Andrew says:

    @Zach W
    It’s too late for Raettig’s redevlopment plan or any other plans for saving Sidney HIH. The majority of the Milwaukee Common Council are in favor of tearing down Sidney HIH.

  3. Dave Reid says:

    @Andrew After Friday it will be too late.. Today there is still a shot.

  4. alex says:

    its ugly. Its cheaper to tear it down and build bigger and better!!!

  5. Kathleen says:

    Why IS the Common Council against Sydney HIH? I want to know what’s under the table in this whole deal. The building has stood at this corner for 130 years. What’s the rush in turning those lots into more vacant land? The Park East as a whole is an eyesore; clearly, no one has developed any of that block, and you cannot blame that lack of development on this building (which, in 2002-2004, wasn’t as much of an “eyesore” as it is today). Plus, once you demolish a building, it’s gone. Some may say good riddance, but the costs of preservation outweigh the regret of the future.

  6. Jerad says:


    Not sure why it looks so ugly to you, I think that a restore facade of the buildings, especially done seperately, would probably look a lot better than anything with a cheap pre-fab facade that would probably go up on a new construction building that would replace it.

  7. Tom Strini says:

    Well, those are pictures. They’re nice. Pictures don’t collapse when you try to fix them. I’m skeptical.

  8. Dave Reid says:

    @Tom Yes, just a first step. But if the building is demolished next week we’ll never know if Mr. Raettig could pull it off, so shouldn’t the Common Council slow down for a minute?

  9. Andy Smith says:

    1) Well, if it looked like this and functioned like this, it would if full of tenants and a resturant, and it wouldn’t be on the demolish count down. If this proposal is to be taken seriously, there must be multiple performance bonds for each …critical stage, strict deadlines with complete penalty and forfeiture provisions, CPA-audited financial statements including project cashflow, fully developed sets of detailed construction plans, and a marketing/business plan for the renovated structure that is realistic and ensures large portions do not remain vacant or underutilized upon completion. ALL of these detailed documents MUST be produced within an extremely short period of time– no more than a month– if this is merely a rapidly produced “concept” that cannot be actually produced, then it is a waste of time. If any one of these things is not accomplished, it is nothing more than a pipe dream and some pretty drawings .. it is NOT a serious development offer, and the structure should become dust.

  10. Andy Smith says:

    2) Dave, if the firm is serious about doing this, then they would not have been thinking about this only in the last few weeks. If they are serious about it and it’s not just a lark, then their own due diligence and research into such a projec…t’s viability would demand that much of this work would already be well underway. If it’s just a pipe dream aimed at stalling the process and buying more time, then we’ve already had plenty enough of that through the decades. It’s put up or shut up time. If all this firm has are some simple, pretty facade drawings, BIG DEAL. That’s nothing. Hence, my stance would be: “You have 30-days to produce these documents, studies, bonds and reports. If you cannot do that, then demolition will begin on day 31. If ALL this turns out to be is a last ditch effort to grasp at straws– produced as a result of the publicity of the last few weeks– then it truly is meaningless. It’s up to them to prove that it isn’t, and on a very short leash.

  11. M says:

    The developer may not fear the pricetag but with the city owning the property finding out it will cost millions on their own just to get it ready for a developer is not money well spent. The next best thing would probably be to tear down the buildings and have any new development for the site incorporate a gallery or a plaza dedicated to the history of those buildings.

  12. Dave Reid says:

    @M No the developer would bear the brunt of the rehab cost, not the city. If they would sell the property with a restoration agreement in place. Further, to tear the property down will cost the city $450,000 so even if the city sold it for $1 it would save taxpayers dollars.

  13. M says:

    The Milwaukee Common Council vote on appealing the historic preservation vote went 11 to 3 in favor of the appeal this morning. This has now sealed the fate of Sydney Hih and it will be demolished.

  14. Dave Reid says:

    @M Actually the council voted 3-11-1 to reconsider and to enter the file on the journal. Which means it will be up for a vote at the next council meeting…. A little more time yet. (working on an article)

  15. M says:

    I think there is some confusion with this 3-11-1 vote. 3 people are required in favor to hold the file to the journal but I would guestimate that it still needs a majority which it didn’t get. Hope your article clarifys what this vote actually means.

  16. Dave Reid says:

    @M It was not a Hold, which does require a simple majority. It was a “Reconsider and Enter on the Journal,” which oddly only requires 3 votes (though you had to be on the winning side of the file vote to make request this reconsideration). Politically I doubt this move will be played out again but that is what it took. So essentially stalled the process until the next council meeting.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us