Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Clarke Square Apartments Advance

Unique apartment project, high-growth internet company and grocery move forward.

By - Jan 31st, 2017 01:52 pm
Clarke Square Apartments Rendering

Clarke Square Apartments Rendering

After nearly a hour of debate, the Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee unanimously approved a zoning change to advance a multi-site, 40-unit apartment complex in the Clarke Square neighborhood. The $15 million proposed complex, known as the Clarke Square Apartments, would be developed by non-profit Journey House and for-profit Cardinal Capital Management. Cardinal will own 75 percent of the development.

The development team originally sought to build 47 units, but reduced the unit count following a public meeting held by area alderman Robert Donovan. The proposed mix of units includes 21 one-bedroom units, 13 two-bedroom units and six three-bedroom units. The development would include 46 parking stalls, with 39 of them built underground.

Journey House CEO Dr. Michele Bria touted the proposal in a high-energy pitch to the committee. She told the committee the project’s origins date back to the 2009 Clarke Square plan by the Zilber Neighborhood Initiative, joining catalytic projects including installing a former Green Bay Packers training field in Mitchell Park and developing a new, $6 million facility for Journey House. Noting the project’s signature attribute, she told the committee that 10 of the one-bedroom apartments would be set aside for individuals aging out of the foster care program. Milwaukee County’s Wraparound Milwaukee program would pay the rent for those apartments.

The development would be built on two sites immediately bordering the one-block Clarke Square Park. As part of the transaction, the city would sell two vacant parcels to the development team for $50,000. One of those parcels, 2331 W. Vieau Pl., housed the recently demolished and long vacant Lao Family Center, which was severely damaged in a three-alarm fire in 2014. The sale price on the two lots has not been finalized. The other is a small lot at 918 S. 24th St. which would be combined with an already acquired lot at 2330 W. Mineral St. A vacant home at the W. Mineral St. site would be demolished. Forty-five parking spaces would be included in the development.

The building on the southwest corner of the lot on W. Vieau Pl. would have 23 units. The building on the northwest corner of the park on W. Mineral St. would have 17 units.

The Zembrowski family, who have owned a home on S. 24th St. since 1954, showed up to testify against the proposal as they did at December’s City Plan Commission hearing on the project. Rachel Zembrowski opened her remarks by stating “as much as what Dr. Bria says sounds lovely, I oppose this project as it is.” Following a question by alderman Milele A. Coggs, Zembrowski noted that she would like to see the proposal cut down to 20 units. The family, including Rachel’s parents William and Elizabeth, testified that they don’t have concerns over the foster care age-out program, but were concerned over potential increased traffic, parking issues and crime. Elizabeth Zembrowski stated that “every study that you can look at says that the way to help a neighborhood like ours is to reduce the population of the area.” Alderman Nik Kovac challenged the density assertion and other issues raised by the Zembrowskis, before committee chair Jim Bohl interrupted in an attempt to keep the lengthy meeting on schedule.

Clarke Square Neighborhood Initiative Council president Tyna Rule, a resident of nearby S. 26th St., testified in favor of the project. Clarke Square Neighborhood Initiative executive director Ian Bautista also testified in favor of the project.

Ald. Donovan, who supports the project, noted that he examined the Zembrowskis’ earlier petition and found that of 23 who signed it, 10 were property owners. The Zembrowskis told the committee that their petition now includes 37 signatures. If they’re able to get enough property owners on board before the proposal goes before the full council, they could trigger a requirement that 12 of the 15 council members must then approve the zoning change.

Following the comments from Donovan, who does not sit on the committee, the proposal was unanimously approved.

The approval today only advances a General Planned Development zoning change and purchase option for the property. The development team will need to return to the council to secure a Detailed Planned Development zoning change to gain final approval of the buildings’ design. Kovac raised concerns over the renderings presented today, but Bob McCormick of Cardinal Capital noted they would be revised in advance of applying for the DPD. At the suggestion of Donovan, the developer is also negotiating with Prince of Peace parish to lease their parking lot for tenants which sits between the two properties along S. 24th St.

Cardinal will apply for low-income housing tax credits from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority to finance the project.

Journey House has a stated mission to “empower families on Milwaukee’s near southside to move out of poverty through adult education, youth development, workforce readiness and family engagement.” The organization, which is located at 2110 W. Scott St., was founded in 1969.

For more on the project, see our December 2016 coverage from when the proposal was approved by the City Plan Commission.


Sites Today

Lao Family Community Center Demolition

Wantable’s Proposal Moves Forward

The committee also quickly advanced Jalem Getz‘s Wantable proposal which could bring hundreds of jobs to Clarke Square. Fast-growing Wantable, a company founded in 2012, bills itself as an “online lifestyle service for women on the go.” The company ships customers packages of makeup, fashion accessories and clothing based on style profiles created online. The development at 18th and National Ave. will also include a grocery story. More details on that proposal, including speculation on which grocery store may locate here, can be found in my article from earlier this month.

Both proposals will go before the full Common Council on February 7th.

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