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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Solar Housing in the Works in Bay View

Former Army Reserve site could become “Eco Bay”

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The city’s vision of turning a former Army Reserve site into a solar-powered village could come true if neighbors and the city can agree on a proposed $40 million development that would produce as much energy as it consumes, the first of its kind in Wisconsin.

“Eco Bay,” to be located on a 5.6-acre site on Logan Avenue and Bay Street in Bay View, includes 20 market-rate single-family homes and townhomes and up to 120 affordable housing units for seniors. As currently envisioned by Quorum Architects, Eco Bay includes permeable paving, a community garden, rain gardens and underground parking. The development will utilize solar panels and geothermal heat pumps to produce energy and incorporate green building materials into its design. Quorum’s proposal was selected over six other developers’ bids by the city’s Housing Authority.

Alderman Tony Zielinski said net-zero developments such as Eco Bay are critical for the environment and the economy. “We’ve got to be more proactive and aggressive on reducing our carbon footprint,” Zielinski said. “Getting a project like this started will help promote similar development. I believe that these types of projects are financially feasible. Once we show that it can be done, there will be many other projects like this springing up.”

Dan Casanova of the Department of City Development (DCD) said the environmental requirements for this development had been more extensive than previous requirements. “We’d want to use this as an example for other city proposals or developers,” Casanova said.

The development is within walking distance of the lakefront and Bay View’s business district, and Zielinski said he hoped that a stop for the proposed Kenosha-Racine-Milwaukee (KRM) rail line would be located at the corner of Bay Street and Lincoln Avenue. “The type of people who want to live in a solar village and be environmentally conscious would be the same people who would want to take the train to work,” Zielinski said.

While Zielinski supports alternative-energy developments, he said that he was not part of the team that selected Quorum’s proposal, and he’s still being briefed on the city’s plans. The city will hold a neighborhood meeting on Tuesday, May 26, at 6 p.m. at Bay View High School to discuss Eco Bay. “I want my constituents to be fully informed,” Zielinski said. “And if they support it, I’ll support it.”

One source of controversy could come from the sale price of the city-owned land, which would have to be approved by the Common Council. In the city’s original request for proposals, the asking price for the parcel was $2 million, although that was negotiable “for proposals that have aggressive environmental sustainability elements.” The current offer is a dollar.

The City Plan Commission would have to approve the site’s zoning change as well.

DCD spokeswoman Andrea Rowe Richards said that the time frame for the approvals depends on residents’ input at the May 26 meeting.

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