Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Sixteenth Street Health Centers Demolishing House for Parking

And more tear downs for parking could follow. Is it good policy?

By - Aug 14th, 2023 06:22 pm
1547 W. Mineral St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

1547 W. Mineral St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee’s densest neighborhood will soon lose housing for residents in favor of storage space for vehicles.

As part of an expansion plan, Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers (SSCHC) will demolish one city-owned house near S. Cesar E. Chavez Dr. for more parking. It could also demolish four more on nearby blocks.

Demolition of the city-owned house at 1547 W. Mineral St. will result in an addition of 12 parking spaces to the existing 77-space parking lot, which runs from W. Mineral Street to W. Washington Street behind the clinic on S. Cesar E. Chavez Drive.

“While we recognize that not everyone is driving a vehicle to the clinic, whether it’s staff or the patients, it’s not enough to meet their needs,” said Tiffany May, a vice president with Berghammer Construction Corporation, to the City Plan Commission on July 17.

“Those 12 spots are very precious to us, and we believe it will help us serve our community even more deeply than we already do,” said Liz Claudio, the health organization’s vice president of operations.

She said the organization remains committed to housing, and said its outreach workers routinely work to improve housing. “We are committed to that housing, but we also believe that is a good example of where an exception should be made in order to provide very needed services to a population that is vulnerable,” said Claudio, a registered nurse.

The organization drew praise for its commitment to the community, but commissioners had questions about the parking and its creeping into the surrounding area.

“Do you have plans for purchasing other houses and turning those into parking?” asked commission chair Stephanie Bloomingdale. “Having surface parking is not something that we love to see, but we do have to have it.”

Claudio said the organization had no immediate plans, but she did identify two other possibilities. She said it was considering one other home adjacent to the parking lot.

She also referenced three houses behind the former Badger Mutual headquarters, 1635 W. National Ave., located two blocks northwest. The organization purchased the Art Deco facility and houses in 2020 for $2.62 million and repurposed the office building into a behavioral health clinic.

“We are not sure what we are going to do there yet,” said Claudio of the S. 17th Street houses. But the organization applied in February for a zoning variance to demolish the properties and merge them into the small clinic parking lot.

Claudio said the organization offers bicycling and carpooling incentives to reduce its parking demand. “We have tried to make use of lots that are further out that we have,” she said. She said security guards escort employees. “There are some security concerns because of the area.”

Other commissioners asked about the planned landscaping along W. Mineral Street, which includes new fencing. Claudio said she pushed the contracting team to go above and beyond the city requirements. The northern side of the lot faces a parking lot for El Rey Foods and the south side faces a suburban-style McDonald’s and another house-turned-lot owned by SSCHC with 12 spaces.

“I think that thing that ultimately led us to be comfortable recommending this particular proposal even though it does result in the demolition of a home is that it that it would add shared surface parking, it would also upgrade the landscaping and it has the support of the local alderman José Pérez,” said Department of City Development planning manager Sam Leichtling.

The city acquired the Mineral St. house in 2021 through property tax foreclosure. “The former owner was living in unsafe conditions,” said DCD real estate specialist Rhonda Szallai. “It was a hoarder situation.” She said the Department of Neighborhood Services estimated it would take $105,000 to rehabilitate the home. The property is currently assessed for $46,600. The 1,488-square-foot house was built in 1888.

Szallai said the city was advised it would need to list the property for approximately $10,000 if it was to be rehabilitated by a new owner. SSCHC is to pay $30,000 for it after submitting an unsolicited offer in January.

The commission unanimously endorsed a zoning change, with Brianna Sas-Pérez abstaining because she is an SSCHC board member. The Common Council unanimously endorsed the zoning change and associated land sale on July 31, with Alderman Robert Bauman pushing for deconstruction to salvage historic materials and lamenting that DCD didn’t inform SSCHC that it was an option.

Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers will host a groundbreaking Tuesday for an $8 million expansion of its clinic and headquarters, 1032 S. Cesar E. Chavez Dr.

The nonprofit health center operates a network of seven clinics on the city’s South Side and one in Waukesha. It seeks to provide health care “free from linguistic, cultural and economic barriers.”


17th Street Houses

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