The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Midwest Director, Royce A. Yeater sent a letter to the City of Milwaukee’s Plan Commission Wednesday expressing the group’s opposition -- spurred by neighborhood complaints -- to the proposed development of the parking lot at Downer Avenue and Belleview Place.
On Wednesday, OnMilwaukee.com reported Ald. Mike D’Amato saying the plan for a 5-story structure with parking addressed concerns expressed by neighbors, but at least one of those neighbors told OnMilwaukee.com that not everyone is satisfied. Another neighbor included OMC in a mass e-mail announcing the National Trust letter.
"The truth is that a large number of Ald. D'Amato's constituents have vigorously lobbied against, predominantly, the height of the condo towers, and the development of the parking lot," said East Side resident Dawn McCarthy.
"We have been told that the changes that have been made in the plans address our concerns. By the power of his position he has a voice, but his saying that our concerns have been addressed does not make it true. Nor is it true that we are against development, against change or few in number. Not a single neighborhood association in the area approved the master plan."
The National Trust's letter -- which was closed copied to Mayor Tom Barrett, Chip H. Brown, III of the Wisconsin Historical Society, Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer James Draeger, Denise Hice, president of Milwaukee Preservation Alliance, Donna Schlieman, secretary of the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance and neighborhood residents Thea Kovac, Jeff Loss and McCarthy -– read, in part:
"I am writing you on behalf of the National Trust for Historic Preservation to express our strong opposition to the Detailed Plan Development proposed at 2574-90 North Downer Avenue. We are concerned that the 5-story parking garage proposed for the City of Milwaukee property at 2574-90 North Downer Avenue will have an adverse impact on both of these historic districts. The design and materials of the proposed development are entirely inappropriate for a historic district and its size is vastly out of scale for the pedestrian-friendly commercial area and residential neighborhoods on which it will intrude."
The letter points specifically to the impact a structure of the size proposed would have on surrounding homes.
"Simply put, a 5-story parking garage is not the right use for this site. The Downer Avenue Historic Commercial District, mostly comprised of two- and three-story commercial buildings built from 1903-1936, and the small scale residential homes closest to the Downer Avenue commercial district in the nearby North Point Historic District, will be overwhelmed by this development. One of the residences will be within 3 feet of the rear of the proposed new garage and will be dwarfed by this behemoth structure, drastically reducing its livability as sunlight is blocked and window views obscured."
It goes on to say that it does not oppose all development on the site and that some other proposals for the land are, in the eyes of the National Trust, better adapted to the site.
"We have reviewed several of the other submissions put forward in response to an RFP issued for the parcel, many of which are more appropriate for the site and would have much less of a negative impact on the surrounding neighborhoods."
"Opposition to the GPD on Downer is to the height, scale and appropriateness," said McCarthy. "This is a predominantly residential neighborhood and home owners here have been dismayed that zoning laws, put in place to protect homeowners, have been overturned to help a developer who claims he will reinvigorate Downer Avenue, although several tenants have left since he took ownership last summer."
D'Amato refused comment on the letter, saying in an e-mail, "The process will be followed and this building will go before the Historic Preservation Commission for approval."
A call to New Land Enterprises Friday was not returned by deadline.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.