Despite Mayor Jeff Scrima calling the architectural design “flat” and “boring,” in downtown Waukesha was approved Wednesday night by the Plan Commission.
Scrima was the only commissioner to vote against the plan to add two stories to the existing one-story parking structure at 831 N. Grand Ave. The plans for the apartment building include two retail spaces on the first floor. Scrima wasn’t pleased with the retail spaces, citing empty storefronts on South Street and North Grand Avenue.
“I am not sure that adding more retail boxes there would be the highest and best use as we have vacancies in that area,” Scrima said.
The discussion started to get a little testy as Scrima said he felt the proposal “seems to pack as many units in as possible.” Instead, Scrima suggested the property be used for meeting, banquet or green space in the downtown.
Parking was another issue – the plans for the project would require tenants to park in the city parking garage about a block away.
“We need to be selective when we say ‘Yes’ to apartment projects in this city,” Scrima said. “We don’t have to say ‘Yes’ to every one that comes along. … I don’t see that this would be an asset to the downtown in the long run.”
Developer Alan Huelsman took exception to Scrima’s comments. He told the mayor he could have designed the building to be four or five stories instead.
“I completely disagree,” Huelsman said. “The units are not packed in at all. They are very high quality, spacious units.”
As far as parking, Huelsman said the 480-unit city parking garage is “massively underutilized.”
While others on the Plan Commission had questions about the façade details, balconies and other amenities to the building, the changes to the building were viewed as an improvement to the current space in downtown Waukesha. The project still has to return to the Plan Commission for final plan approval after addressing some changes.
Estimated rental prices for the apartments are $850 for a one-bedroom unit and $1100 for a two-bedroom unit. The rent structure will not be finalized until after final designs and determination of the internal finishes, according to Community Development Specialist Jennifer Andrews.