Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Deconstruction Ordinance Again Suspended

But DNS still pursuing a deconstruction contractor.

By - Mar 17th, 2023 04:53 pm
Deconstruction of the duplex at 1245-1247 N. Milwaukee St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Deconstruction of the duplex at 1245-1247 N. Milwaukee St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The City of Milwaukee continues to keep its deconstruction ordinance deconstructed.

The policy, first adopted in 2018, required old homes to be effectively dissembled instead of mechanically demolished. The vision was to create jobs, protect the environment and save money by selling, not landfilling, old materials.

But it hasn’t worked out, with city officials pointing the finger at one another during a November 2021 meeting.

It’s become an annual process since 2019 for the Common Council to suspend the ordinance for an additional year. The 2023 proposal is pending before the Common Council. Without approval, the deconstruction ordinance would apply to the razing of any home built before 1930.

Alderman Robert Bauman, the effort’s lead advocate, has never given up on the idea’s promise, while the Department of Neighborhood Services continues to search for a contractor that can both do the work and comply with the city’s standard contracting requirements.

The city fired a once-lauded firm, Spencer Renovation & Construction, after the owner became unresponsive. In fall 2020, the city hired a new partner, White Glove Group, which completed its contract in 2021.

“They did recover quite a few materials, but I think it fell a little short of what our expectations were,” said DNS supervisor Chris Kraco to the Joint Committee on Abandoned and Foreclosed Homes on Feb. 6.

New bid packages went out in 2021 and 2022 with no announcement of an award.

DNS isn’t giving up on the program.

“Planning to hold public information meeting in early spring of 2023 followed by ARPA-compliant request for proposal process,” says the deconstruction section of its written report submitted to the Joint Committee. There is approximately $700,000 in carryover funding available for the initiative.

Bauman highlighted that Kenosha-based Recyclean is voluntarily deconstructing the former Ramada hotel at 633 W. Michigan St. The firm has done other projects in the city.

“Deconstruction is definitely taking place, just not on the city’s inventory,” said Bauman.

Kraco noted that Recyclean was previously offered a contract, but DNS wasn’t sure what portion they weren’t able to comply with.

The requirement to comply with the Residents Preference Program (RPP), where 40% of work hours must be completed by unemployed or underemployed city residents, trips up a number of contractors given that they work with small crews and already have an employee roster. The city’s Small Business Enterprise (SBE) certification is also an issue. Kraco, in February, cited bonding requirements as another potential issue.

The department is also moving slowly on its traditional mechanical demolitions.

It completed just one demolition in 2022 using its $3 million funding allocation from the city’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). It completed more with carryover capital funds from prior years.

“We have a limited number of contractors who regularly bid. We got a late start last year and they got obligated to other projects outside the city and private projects. They are currently starting up working on all of our stuff,” said Kraco.

Commissioner Erica Roberts said the department got a slow start, but picked up the pace once it received the ARPA money and understood the requirements.

Kraco said the pace of work would increase this year. The department was allocated an additional $2.2 million.

As of February, there are 186 city-owned buildings on the city’s “raze list.” Not all will be demolished, with only six with high-priority status. There are an additional 189 private buildings, including Northridge Mall, on the list.

The DNS report said that 107 properties were either under contract (67), in the process of being awarded or about to be bid out. Of those under contract, 49 were city-owned properties. The private properties will be invoiced for the demolition, and if uncollected, the amount is applied to the tax bill. “That’s our vacant lot creation program,” said Bauman.

On Tuesday, the council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee endorsed the 2023 suspension without debate.

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One thought on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Deconstruction Ordinance Again Suspended”

  1. Polaris says:

    Sounds like a lot of good and well-intentioned ideas at loggerheads:

    eliminate unsafe eyesores,
    create jobs,
    protect the environment,
    save money by selling, not landfilling,
    40% of work hours completed by unemployed or underemployed city residents,
    ensure that contractors are bonded.

    That’s a tough one for my non-expert brain, but maybe one or two will have to give. Also sounds like the City starting late is is a problem.

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