27th and Wisconsin Project Moves Forward
Common Council, DCD and Near West Side Partners agree on land sale
The city and the Near West Side Partners have agreed to a sale price for two city-owned parcels near the intersection of N. 27th St. and W. Wisconsin Ave. The group, which is attempting to acquire the entire block bounded by W. Wisconsin Ave., N. 27th St., W. Michigan St. and N. 28th St., will pay the city $40,001. That price reflects the assessed value of the empty lot at 625 N. 27th St. and $1 for the building at 2719 W. Wisconsin Ave.
The Department of City Development (DCD) had originally come to an agreement with the non-profit group to sell the two parcels for $1, but that was amended to $83,200 by the Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee at a hearing last week. The amendment, proposed by area alderman Robert Bauman, reflected the assessed value of the land for the two parcels. The parties have now compromised on the final price on the basis that the parcel at 2719 W. Wisconsin Ave., formerly Lenny’s Wisconsin Billards, would require a substantial demolition expense.
The group is expected to bid on a replacement for the state office building at N. 6th St. and W. Wells St. or a new facility for the Medical College of Wisconsin. The state and medical college are both expected to release requests for proposals this year.
Bauman said he was presented an offer of $25,000 from the group via an official from DCD Monday morning, but countered with the $40,000 figure. The Near West Side Partners and DCD agreed to the revised figure.
Tuesday morning, the Common Council approved the project. Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs abstained from voting on the measure, the only council member not to vote for the deal. She did not offer a reason for her abstention.
Since mid-September, Near West Side Partners has invested more than $900,000 in acquiring 13 of the 17 sites on the block. In addition, it has received one property via donation from the Marcus Corp., has another under contract and is proposing to buy the remaining two parcels from the city.
Near West Side Partners board member and former alderman Willie Wade said the group is prepared to spend $2.5 million on demolishing buildings and remediating environmental issues.
The organization is a non-profit, but would do the development through a for-profit entity that would thus pay property taxes. The organization is supported by five anchor institutions, Marquette University, MillerCoors, Aurora Health Care, Harley-Davidson and the Potawatomi Business Development Corporation, as well as the area’s business improvement district.
Bauman objected to the $1 land sale on the basis that the group was spending “real money” acquiring other parcels and nothing for city land, yet wasn’t proposing a specific plan.
Near West Side Partners Executive Director Keith Stanley said the proposal affords area residents a chance at new jobs being brought to the area, while existing businesses would see a wave of new customers. Bauman has expressed concern that the state office building could bring with it things that could destabilize the neighborhood, including a parole office.
Stanley said demolition is also desired by board member Rick Wiegand, who is buying and converting the Wisconsin Avenue School across W. Wisconsin Ave. into the Ambassador Suites hotel. Wiegand owns a number of buildings nearby.
The city has owned a parking lot on N. 27th St. since the 1960s and recently acquired the building on W. Wisconsin Ave. via property tax foreclosure. The $40,000 in proceeds from the sale of 625 N. 27th St. will be placed into the city’s STRONG Homes Loan Fund.
This isn’t the first time the corner of N. 27th St. and W. Wisconsin Ave. has become a source of debate. After a series of contentious committee meetings, the southeast corner was redeveloped into a state office building five years ago that Bauman calls “‘a horrible development.” The alderman told the zoning committee “it is taxable, we’re getting a little tax revenue from it and I guess that’s a positive. In terms of neighborhood revitalization, we’re getting zero from it.”
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