Plan Commission Okays East Side Project
But with conditions. Former Saints Peter and Paul building could be redeveloped in many ways.
The City Plan Commission is open to letting a former Catholic school in Milwaukee’s Murray Hill neighborhood be redeveloped. But it’s requesting the Common Council place more restrictions on the proposal.
The project is being developed by Matter Development and Galbraith Carnahan Architects, the latter serving as a co-developer and project architect. The partners are seeking a zoning change to enable a broad range of future potential uses for the property at 2480 N. Cramer St.
St. Peter St. Paul Parish and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee have sought to sell the school, 2480 N. Cramer St., for more than four years. The Gothic Revival-style building was constructed in 1912. The approximately 30,000-square-foot building presents as a two-story structure from the street, but includes a basement with high ceilings and classrooms as well as a sizable attic that could house apartments.
The development team has ideas for what they would like to do with the building, and some interested partners, but no firm commitments. Instead, it’s pursuing a specialized zoning change that would grant it a list of more than 30 acceptable uses.
As it did at a neighborhood meeting last Wednesday, the development team showed three distinct concepts. One would repurpose the building as 30 studio apartments, another as a boutique hotel concept with an event venue and the third as an arts collective that has a central event space, office space and small apartments.
“Someone in effect could rent out the entire building as a wedding retreat villa,” said Matter of the hotel concept. “It’s a unique concept that really has not been put forth in any other project that we are aware of in the Milwaukee area.” He said arts groups, many with social service components, had also expressed interest in the collective idea.
But concerns from the plan commission roughly mirrored those that neighbors expressed last week: a concern over potential parking issues and alcohol-related uses.
“We are making the best effort we possibly can as we understand from [the Department of City Development],” said Matter. Ideas include using a valet service to park as many vehicles as possible on Catholic East’s asphalt play area when school is not in session.
Another idea involves using a valet service to park vehicles on nearby streets.
“That doesn’t seem to be a great solution for the parking because it’s hard to park on the East Side, particularly in that area,” said commission chair Stephanie Bloomingdale, a Lower East Side resident.
The commission also heard an explanation from area Alderman Nik Kovac, host of last week’s meeting, about the concerns with a bar in the building. The alderman noted that two-thirds of the meeting attendees, approximately 12 people, voted in support of the project.
Bloomingdale said she was concerned about how a restaurant in the building could evolve. “We have just seen this so many times, they will come with an idea for a restaurant and all of the sudden it becomes a nightclub,” she said.
Kovac said that such a use would be regulated with a liquor license, and the business could be penalized or shuttered.
“I have been on the licenses committee for 11 years,” said Kovac. “It absolutely happens.”
Other commissioners asked questions about rental prices, relocating the on-site playground and what other development options had been considered for the property.
“Everybody loves the building, sees the potential, but it’s just been too complicated for many of the user-buyers,” said Wayne Rappold, the property’s listing agent with CBRE. Matter said his team has spent a substantial amount of time reviewing options for the property.
Kovac endorsed the recommendations of the Department of City Development (DCD) to reduce the number of potential uses, but advance the project. “I think DCD is right to try to pare it down and get them to stick as close as possible to one of three possible uses,” he said.
He said the building could ultimately be demolished, if only by neglect, if a proposal doesn’t advance. “I don’t think [the parish] would tear it down tomorrow, but it’s not clear there is a plausible plan B.”
The commission’s actions on the zoning change take the form of a recommendation to the Common Council. The proposal will next go before the council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee in October.
No members of the public spoke at Monday’s public hearing.
In a concurrent process, the development team is advancing a nomination to have the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The listing would grant the team access to tax credits that would offset up to 40% of historically sensitive redevelopment costs. The building is not locally historically protected.
For more on the building’s condition and development changes, see our coverage from last week.
Other St. Peter St. Paul Buildings
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