Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

City Panel Okays Oak and Loc Complex

Unanimous vote allows controversial East Side apartment project to move forward.

By - Nov 21st, 2017 01:20 pm
2900 Apartments. Rendering by Striegel-Agacki Studio.

2900 Apartments. Rendering by Striegel-Agacki Studio.

A prominent East Side intersection is slated to get a major investment under a proposed development by Michael Klein and Jeno Cataldo. The duo intend to buy and demolish a two-story building at 2900 N. Oakland Ave. and construct a five-story mixed-use building in its place. Striegel-Agacki Studio is leading the design of the project.

The Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee unanimously approved a zoning change for the project today, but not before a lengthy public hearing centered around two area residents who have long opposed the project.

The building, referred to in documents as the 2900 Apartments, would include 55 apartments and 10,000 square-feet of commercial space under plans submitted to the city. The apartments would be a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom units that would rent for $900 to $1,800 per month. Parking would be available for $125 to $150 per month according to Cataldo.

The City Plan Commission had earlier recommended approval of the project, but only after a contentious meeting that included negative comments on the project by commissioners and area residents. The zoning committee meeting got equally contentious, with committee chair Ald. Jim Bohl asserting his control of the committee at multiple points.

Nearby residents James Mehail and John T. Miller vehemently oppose the project, and have objected to the project at multiple neighborhood meetings.

Miller suggested the proposed building doesn’t comply with the Northeast Side Comprehensive Area Plan, with Ald. Nik Kovac and the Department of City Development‘s Vanessa Koster contesting this. Citing two of three guidelines, Kovac noted that the project is in a transit-oriented development corridor and that the plan calls for intensifying housing development along N. Oakland Ave. Responding to Miller’s claim that the adjacent Walgreens is the most valuable business in the area, Kovac said “the big box store that Mr. Miller is says is the best thing in the neighborhood is actively discouraged by the plan.”

Mehail again raised the issue of sewer capacity. Department of Public Works representative Karen Dettmer said the limited capacity on paper is “not an atypical situation.” She said that since the City Plan Commission hearing where the issue was first broached, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District has issued a waiver for the project. In addition, Dettmer said a revised 2020 plan is expected to add an additional 12,000 gallons a day of capacity to the area.

Former area alderman Michael D’Amato, who now leads the area’s business improvement district, testified in favor of the project. D’Amato told the commission “this is a catalytic project that has been identified by the business improvement district for years.”

Area alderman and committee member Kovac noted he had received 10 letters in support and five in opposition. Speaking in support of the project, Kovac said he doesn’t anticipate the project will trigger a wave of development in the area. While he supports development of the surface parking lot at the northwest corner of N. Oakland Ave. and E. Locust St. (and across the street from the proposed 2900 Apartments), other large projects for the area would likely to run into opposition because they would require tearing down historic buildings.

Additional details on the project are available in our coverage from the project’s City Plan Commission hearing and a neighborhood meeting on the project’s initial design.

Updated Renderings

Original Renderings

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One thought on “Eyes on Milwaukee: City Panel Okays Oak and Loc Complex”

  1. John T. Miller says:

    Mr. Jannene
    I read your article covering yesterday’s meeting of the Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development committee regarding the proposed development at Oakland and Locust.
    While not wishing to beat a dead horse, I feel it necessary to push back a bit on the way my comments were characterized.
    In your article you stated “Responding to Miller’s claim that the adjacent Walgreens is the most valuable business in the area, Kovac said “the big box store that Mr. Miller is says is the best thing in the neighborhood is actively discouraged by the plan.”
    I only cited the Walgreens as an example of a neighborhood-serving business, as advocated by the Northeast Side Area Comprehensive Plan. I made no claims that the building was otherwise in conformance, which it clearly is not.
    My intent was to demonstrate that the proposed project did not comply with the broader themes of the plan, and thus not in compliance with the DPD zoning ordinance for which the developers were applying.
    The proponents of this project have maintained that it is in compliance with the Comprehensive Plan because the comprehensive plan advocates for high-density residential/commercial developments along Oakland and at transit nodes like Oakland and Locust. Indeed it does, but always with the caveat that such development be in context and scale with its neighbors.
    • “Transit Oriented Development should adhere to neighborhood scale, character and context….”,
    * “Introduce high-density multifamily housing to commercial districts (in keeping with the scale and character of those districts)”,
    • “Ensure scale, design, and use of new buildings are compatible with adjacent buildings and uses”,
    • “Blend new housing development with the urban fabric and avoid abrupt changes in scale and character”,
    • “Provide commercial-to-residential transitions where possible, for example…scale transitions such as a gradual stepping up in height from residential to commercial districts.”
    • “Make new construction and infill compatible with the existing character and scale of district”,
    and specifically, in reference to the Oakland/Locust BID, “Maintain existing scale and character of residential and commercial buildings. (Tear-downs are not recommended except in cases where buildings are beyond repair.)”
    As I was going through the recommendations of the Comprehensive Plan yesterday, Alderman Bohl said I was being repetitive. I was, because the plan is repetitive in its advocacy of maintaining scale and context.
    Two other themes of the plan are the reduction of the burden of University oriented housing in the area and the enhancement of neighborhood supporting businesses (hence Walgreens). I felt and continue to feel that this development does not adhere to any of these guidelines.
    I had submitted to the committee what I considered to be a thoughtful and well researched argument that project was neither in compliance with the DPD zoning nor the Northeast Side Area Comprehensive Plan. In that letter I included a photomontage of the 2900 block of Oakland, showing just how out of scale and context this project is.
    I am indeed sorry for any part I had in the contentious nature of the hearing yesterday. I put a lot of thought and effort in advocating for an appropriate and neighborhood-serving approach to this project. At neighborhood meetings I never voted against it. I naively believed that, through my knowledge and experience, I could be a champion for making it a project that could enhance the neighborhood. Boy was I wrong. I am stunned by the reaction my efforts have engendered through the process.
    I believe that this has been an enormous missed opportunity and an convinced that this project is a misuse of the DPD zoning and not in conformance with the Comprehensive Plan.
    Thanks for your attention.
    John T. Miller

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