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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Million-Dollar Condos Could Be Added to Prospect Avenue

Bauman signals it’s OK to change zoning for wealthy reside

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East Side Alderman Robert Bauman has indicated that he’d OK zoning changes to allow New Land Enterprises devel oper Boris Gokhman to build a 27-story luxury condo development on the site of the historic Goll mansion at 1550 N. Prospect Ave.

A New Land representative argued that the zoning change merely represents a “reallocation” of square footage currently allowed on that site. Bauman, whose district includes the east side of Prospect Avenue and the Goll mansion, seemed to buy that line of reasoning.

“Will you commit to stand by the current zoning for that property?” Bauman was asked during a July 17 neighborhood meeting to discuss Gokhman’s vision for the site.

“No,” Bauman said.

“So you’re going to change the zoning that’s been there for years?” pressed the questioner.

“Zoning is not inviolate,” Bauman responded. “It’s not the Ten Commandments. It’s not the Constitution. Zoning is what eight aldermen say it is. We can change the zoning at any time. We can change the zoning so that you can build 60 stories. We can do that, too.”

“Who are you representing?” the incredulous questioner asked. “The developer or the neighborhood?”

“I would be very happy to debate the politics and we can shut off the presentation and they can go home,” Bauman said.

New Land’s PowerPoint presentation was shut off briefly, and there was scattered applause throughout the increasingly combative audience.

Million-Dollar Condos Overlooking the Lake
The proposed high-rise, which would be built between the mansion and the bluffs overlooking the Oak Leaf Trail bike path, would include 35 loft-style condos—two on each floor, although units could be combined—with an estimated 2,500 square feet per unit. The “price point,” according to New Land architect Scott Kindness, is at least $1 million per condo.

The skyscraper would also include five floors of above-ground parking, nine outdoor visitor parking spaces and a private gym looking out onto Lake Michigan. The luxury condos would connect to the Goll mansion, where a concierge, ballroom and guest suites could be accessed by residents only, although the public may be invited in for occasional tours.

Proceeds from the condo development would be used to restore the historic English manor-style mansion, while a portion of the residents’ condo fees would be designated to maintain the historic mansion.

The Goll mansion was built in 1898 by the legendary local firm Ferry & Clas, the designers of the Milwaukee Public Library, the Pabst mansion and St. John’s cathedral tower, among other local landmarks.

The Milwaukee Common Council voted unanimously in 2002 to place the mansion on the Milwaukee register of historic sites and it is part of the Prospect Avenue Mansions Historic District.

Gokhman bought the building in 2005, and it is currently being used as office space.

“This Doesn’t Fit”
New Land’s Kindness said the developer had initially toyed with constructing a 60-unit building on the site. New Land then consulted with the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Wisconsin Historical Society, Preserve Our Parks, Milwaukee Department of City Development and the Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission to develop what it calls a “more sensitive” building.

But neighbors at the meeting brought up their concerns about the new development blocking views from their own residences; Prospect Avenue’s current congestion and lack of parking; New Land’s track record on previous developments, including its project on Downer Avenue; whether New Land would keep its promise to restore the Goll mansion; whether New Land and the city would take public input seriously, or if the project was already a done deal; whether Bauman was taking his constituents’ concerns seriously; and whether the proposed development—which would serve 35 residents yet affect many more— was a good fit for the site and the neighborhood.

“There is another choice,” another audience member commented. “And that is no building. Sometimes developments just don’t fit… This doesn’t fit.”

The meeting was also attended by Alderman Nik Kovac, whose district includes the west side of Prospect Avenue. Kovac didn’t commit to honoring the cur rent zoning regulations for the Goll man sion. He did say that the public has an inter est in having the mansion restored.

The project will be debated next at a Sept. 15 Plan Commission hearing and by other committees before being voted on by the full Common Council.

What’s your take?

Write: editor@shepex.com or comment on this story online at www.expressmilwaukee.com.

Historic Goll mansion on Prospect Avenue | Photo by Kate Engbring


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