Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Bucks Guard Scores Again on Project

Historic preservation group again clears way for Connaughton's downtown development.

By - Dec 10th, 2019 10:05 am
1245-1247 N. Milwaukee St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

1245-1247 N. Milwaukee St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Historic Preservation Commission, for the second time, has cleared the way for a redevelopment proposal by Milwaukee Bucks guard Pat Connaughton.

After spending over an hour debating the merits of an 1865 duplex located at 1245-1247 N. Milwaukee St., the commission voted unanimously to reject an application to permanently designate the house as historic.

Connaughton, through his development firm Beach House, plans to demolish the duplex and construct a three-story, three-unit apartment building on the site.

Commissioners backed the comments of veteran member and UW-Milwaukee architecture professor Matt Jarosz that the property satisfied at least four directives under which a property could be designated, but did not rise to the level of significance.

“Based on my experience in the past there has always been one that has risen to prominence,” said Jarosz, ticking off a list of possibilities including a well-known resident or an exemplification of an architectural style.

This move follows a similar rejection on November 11th of a temporary historic designation. Due to excused absences, that earlier decision was made by a different contingent of the six-member commission. Jarosz and Alderman Robert Bauman, who represents the area where the property is located, were present this time, while Sally Peltz and Patti Keating Kahn were absent. Architect Marion Clendenen-Acosta, the chair, and developer Ann Pieper Eisenbrown were present for both meetings.

Referred to as the Garner-Rainey-Schutz House, the property was nominated for historic preservation by Dawn McCarthy, board member of the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance.

McCarthy appealed the earlier rejection to the Common Council. But the council, which will hear the matter at the Tuesday meeting of the Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee, has often applied a more stringent standard to historic designations. Unlike most council decisions, the committee’s decision is final.

Even if McCarthy appeals the second rejection decision, a loophole will be created where Beach House could receive a demolition permit. Should the council committee reject the temporary designation, itself effectively an 180-day injunction, nothing would protect the house from demolition. An appeal could be pending while demolition is underway.

Connaughton, testifying less than three hours before he was scheduled to play a game, did not say if his firm would look to exploit the loophole, but did say he wants to a partner with the city and create a “very tasteful” building.

“The hope is to take the building down while preserving anything of value,” said the athlete of the firm’s plan. Connaughton’s father, Lenwas a real estate developer in Boston for decades and the younger Connaughton said that experience would ensure deconstruction was done correctly.

Attorney Bruce Block, who has done significant work for the Bucks, said Connaughton was not technically his client but a contact through a “mutual friend.” He argues that the property did not rise of the level of protection. “If this gets through you have set a very low bar and I think virtually anything can get through,” said the attorney.

McCarthy argued the property, even if it doesn’t meet national standards for historic designation, was worthy of local designation. She argued that similar to the former Schlitz tavern in Riverwest on N. Humboldt Ave., the building was one of local significance as it represents the evolution of the city.

Commission staffer Carlen Hatala who presented an update to her earlier report on the property, said despite the many alterations to the properties it was still worthy of designation. “We have designated a number of properties that have undergone remodeling over their time period,” said Hatala.

The 26-year-old Bucks guard, who has been with the team since the start of the 2018-19 season, acquired the property in March for $325,000 according to city records. His firm had applied for a raze permit for the property on October 8th.

Connaughton’s firm is also planning a second building that will need commission approval because of its location in the Brady Street Historic District. That project, which became public last week, is planned for a vacant, city-owned site at 1697-1699 N. Marshall St.

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