Graham Kilmer

Wangard Still Can’t Meet City Rules

Subsidized Freshwater Plaza project flunks Residents Preference Program.

By - Apr 11th, 2017 04:14 pm
Freshwater Plaza Apartments. Photo taken June 24th, 2016 by Jeramey Jannene.

Freshwater Plaza Apartments. Photo taken June 24th, 2016 by Jeramey Jannene.

A $44 million, mixed-use project called Freshwater Plaza continues to fall short of the city’s requirements for hiring local workers.

The project is being developed by Wangard Partners, Inc., whose representatives appeared before the Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee today, and it reported low numbers of local workers and small business contractors and a failure to meet the requirements under the Residents Preference Program (RPP) and Small Business Enterprise Program (SBE).

The development is intended to be a gateway project to further development in the harbor area and will include a four-story building with more than 16,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor and 76 apartments above.

Because the $44 million development received more than $4 million in public financing, the project must have 40 percent of the total hours worked by Milwaukee residents certified under the RPP.

As of Dec. 2016, the the project had RPP workers contribute only 22 percent of the work hours on the project — 18 percent short of their goal. However, their report shows they have met the SBE requirements, awarding contracts with 27 percent SBE inclusion, or  2 percent higher than the city’s required standard.

RPP workers must be local residents who meet one or more of several qualifications, such as having not worked for the past 15 days or a total of 1200 hours in the last month, or those meeting federal poverty guidelines. The program seeks to bolster the city’s workforce and lift city residents out of poverty with job experience and training that can lead to a sustaining career.

As Ald. Nik Kovac put it, the ultimate goal isn’t just to have a diverse workforce on projects with public subsidy, rather it’s “to have developers like Wangard discover that, hey, this is just as effective hiring this way as other ways.”

The first and largest phase of the four-phase Waterfront Plaza development is nearly finished, according to Michael Cockroft, a construction project manager for Wangard.

When Wangard and the project came before the committee in December with numbers from the previous quarter, the project was 14 percent shy of its goals. At the time, Wayne Wiertzema, President of Wangard Partners, told Urban Milwaukee that massive development projects around the city were vacuuming up many available RPP workers leaving slim pickings for the others.

Cockroft said the developer has learned from this failure. In the future, working in the very early stages of a project with contractors to meet goals and greater attention to outreach will be key to meeting requirements, he said.

“Quite frankly, we had a few firms that just failed,” he said. “We could have done a little more due diligence working with those firms to make sure that they’re qualified to do the work.”

The developer has submitted a plan to the Department of City Development aimed at resolving shortcomings with RPP employment. That plan also includes using hours from other projects, such as the office building development at 1433 Water.

Ald. Russell Stamper, an exacting cross-examiner of developers when RPP reports come before committee, pushed Cockroft to gauge Wangard’s confidence in future RPP levels.

“Otherwise where you’re short we can provide you with some organizations or some small businesses or some people to fill those hours.”

New Stormwater System Also Reviewed

Also before the ZND committee was a new water feature at the Freshwater Plaza project.

The plan calls for four pond areas or water pools that will fill with rainwater collected on the roof of the residential building. The water ponds are set in a descending elevation from west to east. The rainwater will be fed into the western pond and it will flow east to lower elevations.

This new feature will also be built in part by RPP workers.


Categories: Real Estate

7 thoughts on “Wangard Still Can’t Meet City Rules”

  1. Hereiam says:

    This entire project has been very underwhelming. The nearly finished project is mostly parking lot. It doesn’t engage at all with its surroundings. And, on top of that, it seems like the slowest construction pace in the city.

  2. Ben says:

    They tried to follow the rules and that is why they are short for the RPP.

    There are inner city “companies” who make money by being your RPP quota. They won’t do any work, but they help get you your financing from the government.

    It’s how the system works.

  3. Kent Mueller says:

    Maybe what’s central to their problem here is just the huge amount of construction activity going on in the city. I know it’s straining everything from contractors to cement supplies. It’d be interesting to find out how many other RPP-involved projects are going on right now.
    As neighborhood residents we’ve been looking forward to this, as for Hereiam’s criticism, the parking is mostly behind the buildings and in front of the adjoining Cermak’s (much needed since the Pick N Save at 19th & National closed). As far as not engaging with it’s surroundings, look at the surroundings: there isn’t much to engage with; the monumental monolith of Allen-Bradley/Rockwell, two bars, an auto body shop, a huge Uhaul/self-storage facility. The building is nicely set back w/ a small plaza, the ponds should be interesting. It’s also the right kind of gentrification, replacing empty spaces instead of forcing the working poor from their homes or changing the character of a functioning neighborhood.
    What’s needed here is some patience on the part of the city. I expect the finished result will be worth it.

  4. Kent Mueller says:

    Much of the problem is likely linked to the massive wave of development across the entire eastern third of the city. It’s straining construction resources to the max, everything from contractors to concrete is in short supply, if there are 2 or 3 (or more) RPP related projects going on right now, that would complicate matters. As a resident of the neighborhood I look forward to the finished product.

  5. Freida Webb says:

    Please to see your commitment regarding meeting the RPP goals, there is a group called Skilled Trades Collaborative (STC) made up of African American & Latinos trades persons who promote and mentor the skilled trades to the RPP target communities. Many of our members are now retired thus we would welcome the opportunity to work with you going forward to help meet the RPP goals and assist members of the target group climb the construction career ladder with mentor and support assistance we provide. Feel free to contact us via for more info. Thanks Freida Webb, Nacarci Feaster, Herman Ross, Roberto Garcia, STC Founding Members.

  6. Everybody should be held accountable for the lack of diversity. Excuses and oversite are the main reasons their are a number of multiracial men and women are not working these sites. People want to be working. As we continue build we should do what’s necessary to ensure everyone has the opportunity to work. Is there a company or agency available to research to ensure the policies are followed and if not have the capacity or ability to fine or halt the development until these companies become compliant. It’s not fair to advocate for a fair shake and the don’t follow through. It seems the companies get there building built but men and women still don’t get work so they can feed their families.

  7. Walter stawicki says:

    It gives me hope to see people trying to look at the greater situation and not jump to the blame game. Blame and polarity and frying the govt seem to be the in thing, doesn’t it. Frieda Webb, it would be good to know that the city has responded to ovatures, or that the dues collecting unions are eager to help give on job experience to minority blackk and hispanics (and women!!!)

    You do not just call up and say send us 20 (untrained) minority workers. Getting them ready takes planning and has to happen first. IT is so easier to complain they are not on the job yesterday. don’t complain, lead the changes. and if you meet resistance? scream bloody discrimination and scream until it is heard.

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