Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Developer Planning Apartments for Bay View American Legion

Small proposal gets large reaction from Bay View residents and Ald. Tony Zielinski.

By - Sep 10th, 2018 04:15 pm
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2860 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

2860 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Developer Scott Genke has an agreement to purchase the American Legion hall at 2860 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. and build an apartment building on the site.

Under a plan confirmed by area alderman Tony Zielinski, Genke intends to demolish the building and construct a 36-unit apartment building on the .7 acre site.

Genke, according to Zielinski, has the site under contract for purchase. The developer, who operates SG Property Development + Management, isn’t requesting a subsidy according to Zielinski and the proposal is expected to comply with existing zoning for the site.

But, despite the straight-forward nature of the proposal, Zielinski isn’t rooting for the deal to succeed.

“There is nothing the city can do to stop him. If the city could we would.” said Zielinski in a Facebook post. “Our hope is that he does not close so Tenuta’s can get the property. Tenuta’s would be a better fit.” The alderman said the Italian restaurant, located at 2995 S. Clement Ave., was interested in acquiring the building.

Zielinski, who championed development along Kinnickinnic Ave. and opposed it aggressively in other areas of the neighborhood, said this proposal is in a different area of the Bay View main street than other new projects. “This to me doesn’t fit the mold of the Kinnickinnic and Lincoln area,” said the alderman in an interview.

He said he views this area as primarily residential compared to the more business intensive north end of Kinnickinnic Ave.

And while the street is certainly more urban and business-centric to the north, the T-intersection of S. Kinnickinnic Ave. and S. Fulton St., where the building would be built, has buildings with commercial components on every side.

The site is bordered to the west by the elevated Lake Parkway freeway and Union Pacific railroad tracks, with an Outpost Natural Foods grocery store and a large park on the other side of the highway.

Zielinski said he would not hold a public meeting over the project because Genke has not agreed to appear. The alderman said if a zoning variance was required, a public meeting would be required if he were to consider supporting the project.

Genke did not return a request for comment by the time of publication.

Bring Out The NIMBYs

Genke might be wise to avoid a public meeting with no legal binding. A comment on the Bay View Town Hall Facebook group about opposing the development led to an over 100-comment-long thread that invoked nearly every standard Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) argument.

“It’s a shame they have already ruined Bayview [sic] and it’s going to just put it further into the toilet from over development with no conscience,” said one commenter. Another added: “Bay View is losing the reasons why it’s such a quaint area to live in. All of the buildings with history and character are being torn down and turned into condos. It’s hipster hell now. In 20 years it’s going to be a ghetto again with the cheaply made buildings being assembled just to generate revenue and increase property tax value.”

Others complained about parking, potential environmental issues, too many people, declining property values, rising property values, high taxes, congestion, high rent costs and assumed empty apartments. A few accused of Zielinski, who opposes the project, of being in the pocket of the developer. Others raised fears that Bay View was turning into “East Side #2.”

A handful of commenters indicated support for the project, and one praised Genke’s past work.

Genke isn’t a newcomer to Bay View. His firm owns a number of properties in the neighborhood. His highest-profile project to-date is the 2016 redevelopment of the King Building at 2534 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. into a two-story apartment building, which Zielinski supported. He also has plans to develop the empty lot across the street from the King Building.

Genke also has plans for an apartment building in Riverwest. He recently dropped plans for a small apartment building on E. Brady St.

About The Current Building

Built in 1941, the 7,194-square-foot building has always been home to George Washington Bay View American Legion Post 180. The organization, however, is facing an uncertain future.

The chapter is led by Ian Nunn, who said the group has no intentions of disbanding. However, the chapter is dealing with declining membership, Nunn told the Bay View Compass. Post 180 has gone from over 1,000 members to fewer than 200.

To offset the lost revenue from declining membership, the group had leased out portions of the building. From 2014 to 2018, Little DeMarini’s operated as a pizza restaurant in a portion of the building’s lower level.

The structure, which is not historically designated by either the city or federal government, has a pending raze permit. Demolition costs are estimated at $35,000. Shoreline Contracting Services would perform the work.

The property, assessed at $480,000, was listed for sale for $725,000 in May. The price was later reduced to $699,000. Terms of Genke’s purchase agreement are not available.

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3 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Developer Planning Apartments for Bay View American Legion”

  1. montaviusj92 says:

    It puts a huge smile on my face to know he doesn’t have to go through the NIMBY backlash at a public meeting. BUILD IT

  2. HamBam says:

    I’m super excited to hear this news, and I appreciate the coverage of a portion of the community’s response, even if I don’t agree with their sentiments. Looking forward to the new construction!

  3. LittleFrog17 says:

    As a Bay View resident, I support development.

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