Michael Horne
Plenty of Horne

MIAD Apartments Changes Irk Bauman, Who Demands Fix

A planned community gathering space instead becomes an underwhelming staircase.

By - Sep 11th, 2014 05:36 pm
Approved Design.

Approved Design.

Not long ago, Matt Jarosz took fourteen of his UWM students on a tour of the Historic Third Ward and figured the group would gather at the new MIAD apartments to discuss their impressions of Milwaukee’s laboratory of preservation architecture.

There was a nice terraced spot designed with just such a purpose in mind nestled between the apartments and an adjacent storefront building, and the class headed off to 252 E. Menomonee St.

But to his surprise, Jarosz found there was no terraced gathering spot awaiting his students, but in its place, an ungainly steel staircase leading up to a rooftop courtyard. Instead of opening to the street, as would be expected, the staircase with its enclosed treads made a 180 degree turn to face a wall.

It was hardly the engaging, inviting, open spot that had been envisioned when the Business Improvement District #2 Architectural Review Board approved plans for the construction of the dorm, known as Two50Two.

Jarosz should know. He is one of the seven members of the board, a quasi-governmental entity with the responsibility “to review and regulate the construction and exterior of buildings and land uses in the Historic Third Ward and Business Improvement District #2.”

He certainly did not recall approving the stairs, and said “an elegant transition between buildings has been lost,” at a board meeting Wednesday, Sept. 10.

On the agenda was an item calling for retroactive approval of a “modification to previously approved plans,” sought by General Capital Group, the developer and owner of the dorm, represented at the hearing by developer Sig Strautmanis.

Strautmanis told the board he had been caught in a bureaucratic limbo regarding accessibility issues — the terrace would need to be ramped, he said, and that was implausible due to site restraints. Somewhere along the line, MIAD decided stair access to the roof (which would not require handicap access) would replace the terrace. Some stepped plantings and living walls would soften the poured concrete massing of the area, he told the board, somewhat apologetically.

Bob Bauman, the 4th District alderman who chairs the board, was having none of it.

“This is a huge change!” he exclaimed, saying that it was a “significant deviation from the approved plans of this board.” Bauman added: “It’s not even close. It’s a substantial deviation.”

What was once to be a community gathering place is “now a bad space,” Bauman said. “Details are critical. … I wouldn’t have approved it. … How did this get past plan review?” he wondered.

“Is this unacceptable?” Bauman was asked.

“Yes,” he responded.

Strautmanis will have to make some big changes.

So might the city, Bauman intimated. He said he planned to speak with Art Dahlberg, the city’s Commissioner of the Department of Neighborhood Services, to find out where the plans got derailed.

Bauman said later it was important that the city’s department managers followed the plans approved by the board and similar entities. Failures like this one could have serious consequences if developers are able to bypass established policies and procedures.

Any governmental entity, from a neighborhood architectural review board, to the executive office of the President of the United States is jealous of its prerogatives. The ARB has legal power to enforce the Third Ward’s architectural guidelines, so the chain of command is clear.

But if a bait-and-switch of this magnitude is permitted, the questions remain: “By whom?” And, “for what consideration?”

Staircase in Question

Also at the ARB Meeting

Original Kimpton Hotel Rendering

Original Kimpton Hotel Rendering

The major news of the meeting was the approval of moderate architectural changes to the Kimpton Hotel planned for 200 N. Broadway. Board members allowed a stone base for the building, larger windows on the alley rooms of the 158-person hotel and a relocated trellis at the rooftop bar and restaurant. The trellis would be shifted from the Broadway facade to that on E. Chicago St. The board previously rejected the hotel developer’s plans for a double “blade” sign on the building. It will be replaced by a single blade sign on its southwest corner. … A slight facade alteration was approved for the Dohmen Building at 417 E. Chicago St. A garbage corral planned for near the building will be relocated to its southeast corner. … The never-occupied corner retail space at River Renaissance, 102 N. Water St., will get a tenant when Associated Bank moves in. The bank plans to have an ATM on the north wall of the building, and a proposed ramp that would partially block the 8’ wide entrance to the Riverwalk there. Board members noted that the ramp could be redirected to retain the walk access at its current width.

New Jobs for Norquist

Former mayor John O. Norquist has been named an adjunct professor at DePaul University, where he is teaching a class on Urban Planning and Public Policy. He has also been named the John M DeGroves Eminent Scholar at the Regional Planning Program at Florida Atlantic University.

Burke Brings Campaign to Town

Martin O'Malley and Mary Burke.

Martin O’Malley and Mary Burke.

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Rep. Gwen Moore, Mayor Barrett and County Executive Abele were on hand to give their support to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke at a rally at Lakefront Brewery, Sunday, Sept. 7. The fundraiser raised $17,000.

Brewery owner Russ Klisch led off some speeches by recounting the time when Mayor Norquist sold him a surplus city property on N. Commerce St. Today, Lakefront Brewery is planning to expand on the site by building to the north on a vacant lot previously planned for condos. The brewery tours brought in 100,000 visitors last year. “Business and government can work together,” he said, using his experience as an example.

Tom Barrett called the rally, which filled the 399-capacity brewery to its full extent, “a magnificent event.” Barrett, who lost twice to Burke’s rival, Scott Walker, said voters should hold the governor to his failed pledge to provide 250,000 new jobs in the state his first term.

“If the [University of Wisconsin] Badgers [football team] were dead last, we’d be looking for a new coach,” Barrett said, adding “Mary Burke has created more jobs than Walker.”

Gwen Moore, who had been arrested earlier that week for a minimum wage protest, looked no worse for wear. She says Republicans say the Democrats “don’t have a message. Well here is the message,” she said, and commenced singing the “Scott Walker Blues.” Politics and performance art have always intersected in Gwen Moore.

Gov. O’Malley said Walker was interested in rolling back voters rights, (“what does that have to do with creating jobs?”) and said Walker had repealed equal pay for equal work for women, which prompted Moore to interject, “Yes he did!”

Burke seemed confident that she would become the next governor, which is always a good position to take at a political rally held in your name. But there seemed to be a certain confidence in the audience of partisans that the goal, indeed, may be within reach.

I stood near O’Malley as Burke spoke, and he said it was his first time in Wisconsin in six months, and that he was pleased to “see her invigorated. I like her spirit.”

Burke noted the series of attack ads run against her lately by the Walker campaign and unknown special interest groups.

“Two months of attack ads and they haven’t even landed a punch. But you know — the tougher they get, the tougher I get. Stay tough with me.”

I also noted the vigor and confidence that seems to have grown as Burke continues her campaign and asked her how she likes being on the trail.

“The more I do it, the more I love it,” she said.

Photos From the Fundraiser

3 thoughts on “Plenty of Horne: MIAD Apartments Changes Irk Bauman, Who Demands Fix”

  1. Chris says:

    It’s too bad the original stepped planter design was not realized. I’m still a little unclear of the code issue… They had proposed a stair to the roof in both solutions, so why not stick with the original design and not call the roof a terrace?

    The other question of course: What happened to the cool mural?

  2. Joseph says:

    I shopped the Blick store a week or two ago and (not knowing it hadn’t been approved this way) noticed this spot and how much it felt like an ad-on. As though they didn’t expect to have this leftover space and few people would see it so they just threw it together. It’s a very nice location and they were lucky to be able to build there but this staircase sticks out like a sore thumb.

  3. Joseph says:

    I should also point out that when the space to the left of the stairwell is complete (the structure with the angle I-beams out front) is completed it will bookend the stairwell. I think the result will only make the situation worse and give it an alleyway feel. It will also result in a nook that will probably become a preferred spot for smokers and accumulate garbage.

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