By: Dean Mosiman, Wisconsin State Journal, February 13, 2014
After a recent proposal got a cool reception, Gorman & Co. is revising plans for the long-dormant Union Corners project on the corner of East Washington Avenue and Milwaukee Street.
Meanwhile, Gebhardt Development has sought brief delays on city approvals to make final tweaks to a $70 million to $85 million redevelopment in the 800 block of East Washington Avenue.
Gorman’s latest proposal envisions less surface parking and more underground spaces, taller commercial buildings, and shorter apartment buildings near existing single-family homes in the neighborhood.
Gary Gorman declined to reveal full details until sharing them with a neighborhood steering committee on Saturday.
“I’m confident we’ll please enough people to gain support,” he said. The neighborhood review will be followed by submission of a formal plan, to go before the Urban Design Commission in May.
Gorman was chosen in late 2012 to develop the 11.4-acre Union Corners site, acquired by the city two years earlier. On Oct. 30, 2013, the city and Gorman signed an agreement under which the city would sell the site to Gorman for $1, repaying the city’s $6 million investment through higher property taxes generated by the estimated $83.9 million project.
But informal plans Gorman offered in January called for a less-dense development, with more parking lots, less public space, and four-story apartment buildings near existing single-family homes.
The project changed for several reasons, Gorman said. Initial concepts were based on $14 million in tax increment financing support, not the current agreement that provides land but no cash, he said. Also, negotiations with UW Health, which wants a two-story, 60,000-square-foot clinic at the corner of East Washington Avenue and Milwaukee Street, resulted in the elimination of a parking structure, to be replaced with more underground and surface parking, he said. Talks for landing a perhaps 25,000-square-foot grocery meant even more parking space.
Gorman said he’s unable to make the health clinic building taller. But he has removed some surface parking in favor of a 240-space underground garage, increased the potential height of commercial buildings from four to six stories, and cut the height of the apartment buildings to two stories.
Ald. Marsha Rummel, 6th District, called the proposed changes “the first step in a conversation” and said she was optimistic “we can figure this out.”
Gebhardt, despite the latest delay, is closer to approvals.
A first phase includes a 55,000-square-foot Skogen’s Festival Foods grocery store, 30,000 square feet of retail/office space, 215 apartments and a four-story parking garage with 500 spaces, Otto Gebhardt said. A second piece has 60,000 to 100,000 square feet of retail/office space, 26 owner-occupied units, 20 townhouses and 200 more parking stalls, he said. Gebhardt is seeking a $7 million TIF loan.
“If you get a great project, the wait and the late start is worth it,” said Ald. Ledell Zellers, 2nd District.
Gebhardt hopes to begin phase one in April, completing that piece in summer 2015.