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Downtown Apartments Gain Preliminary Approvals

Waukesha Mayor Jeff Scrima voted against the proposal after he described the building's design "flat" and "boring."

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.

Kat July 12, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Just what the downtown area needed.....more low-rent apartments to fill with druggies, dope-dealers, sex offenders and criminals.......who are the morons in Waukesha that make these decisions? Are the city officials brain dead? When are they going to start realizing Waukesha citizens are getting fed up with this town? There's already no parking in downtown, this is going to make that worse. And who are the people that are going to be owning and renting out these "quality and spacious apartments"? The same absentee landlords that rent out all the other crappy rentals that already exist in the downtown area? This is not what we need.
Sarah Millard (Editor) July 12, 2012 at 05:51 PM
How is $850 for a one bedroom unit and a $1,100 for a two-bedroom unit considered low income?
Carl Spackler July 12, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Because Sarah these people get rent subsidizes. But hey, then they would not have to live on West Avenue and Jackson Court. They will be able to do their crimes closer to home. Kat is right. When will we understand the low rent undesirables from Milwaukee should be stopped at the border. And, this is not racist, it is just a fact.
Johnny Paycheck July 12, 2012 at 08:49 PM
Waukesha as a whole is rather low-income-ish... I don't like living here either on that account, but a house just like the one I've got would cost 20% more in Brookfield, Sussex, Wauwatosa, Pewaukee, etc... Better get used to it, cause this is the lowest rent city in the area.
Kat July 13, 2012 at 02:16 AM
The slumlord that rents apartments on my street charges his tenants $1,200 a month for a one bedroom apartment that isn't fit for rats to live in. Who do you think is going to be living in apartments above a bunch of retail stores on Main Street, with no parking? It's not exactly what I would consider "classy digs", the way it stands now. It's going to be the same type of people who live in all the other rat-holes in town, who get rent subsidizes. My other question is WHY exactly does Waukesha need more rentals anyway? The town is already 80% rental properties. What they need to do is attract more people and businesses who have a vested interest in their town and community, not transient renters.
Morris D July 13, 2012 at 02:59 AM
Why can't we develop a zero tolerance policy for crime in this city instead of developing subsidized housing (and crime)? Certain parts of our city is called "Mil-Waukesha" - I guess Mil-Waukesha will be growing.
Lynn Vander Meer July 13, 2012 at 08:04 PM
The same people who scream and yell about their taxes as property owners of these rental units are feeding at the rent subsidy trough...oinky-doinky! That's tax money, too, Einstein.
Carl Spackler July 13, 2012 at 08:07 PM
Well said Morris!
Sonia July 16, 2012 at 03:25 PM
Sarah, can Patchprovide a link to a website or article that explains the difference between a) rental apartments b) low-income housing c) subsidized housing It appears that commenters are conflating rental with subsidized housing. Maybe you could call the Waukesha Housing Authority and get a breakdown of how many families receive subsidies
Sonia July 16, 2012 at 03:26 PM
oops,that didn't work--here is a continuation of my comment: Maybe you could call the Waukesha Housing Authority and get a breakdown of how many families receive rent subsidies in Waukesha, and they could tell you about how they select families to receive rent subsidies, and just how long the waiting list is for rent subsidies in the County. From what I know, (and I am not an expert) the Waukesha Housing Authority prefers to help out as many families as possible with rent subsidies, so they try and get families into rental units that have lower rents to begin with, so there is less to subsidize for each family. As far as low-income housing is concerned, that is a different animal altogether. Again, I am not an expert, but I believe to get tax credits the developer has to assure that a certain percentage of units will be below-market rate. Like Sarah mentioned, I don't see where that is mentioned in the proposal. I do agree with the Mayor, though. The design looks really flat and boring, and the downtown area can't fill the retail spaces it has right now.
Lynn Vander Meer July 17, 2012 at 03:38 AM
How can they be putting in all these "housing units" and there isn't a grocery store within walking distance? take a look at where all the subsidized housing is concentrated. There's big money in housing poor people with subsidies. And who pays for it? You do, In taxes and that sweet deal called Tax Incremental Financing where you pay for a developer's taxes while he rakes in the bucks and then he flips it to a buddy, who flips it to a buddy. Go check the history on the Jackson Ct/Newhall/Hinman properties. Start there, there still are some dots to be connected...
sarah August 15, 2012 at 10:59 PM
Well, to all of you who think that this is such a bad idea... why dont you try to be a single mother trying to raise decent human beings, should they be kept in a corner of a city or town? But what happens when these children turn into adults and do not have to stay confined to that corner anymore? They will surely come and terrorize whatever they can terrorize. Why not give them a decent place to live so they have just as good a chance as anyone else? Why not give them and their mothers a taste of a better life so that they can continue to head down a better avenue so they can get to a prosperous place in life and stay there for good? That would be making a difference. Housing does not put up with much B/S so you can rest assured that they do weed out the mischevious ones and keep the ones who are really trying. If you think someone is bad and will wrong you, they probably will, but if you give them a fair chance you might see something different: Chinese proverb

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