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4-story, 55-unit apartment gets approval on Milwaukee's east side despite neighbors' lawsuit

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church owns the plot of land that developers want to build the apartment on. It currently is a vacant lot at 2604 N. Hackett Ave.
Posted at 10:29 AM, Aug 23, 2022

MILWAUKEE — A four-story, 55-unit proposed apartment building on Milwaukee's east side is moving forward, undeterred by a lawsuit arguing the development is too large for the space.

The City Plan Commission OK'd the project 6-0 on Tuesday. The Common Council's Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee is set to meet Sept. 13 about the project, online city records show.

Neil Thompson is one of five people suing the city to stop a proposed 55-unit apartment complex east of downer avenue from getting approved.

"I'm not against development but I'm interested in how that development takes place," Thompson said.

According to the lawsuit, one of the issues states that the complex would bring increased traffic leading to parking problems for those already living in the area.

"I just think that it's just another building," Thompson stated. "It doesn't have character. It doesn't offer the community anything except cars and people."

On Monday, the city's plan commission unanimously approved the rezoning but is requiring the developer to study the traffic impacts and present it to neighbors like Thompson.

Many neighbors like Greg Baran are on board with the development.

"I think it's an addition to the neighborhood and brings more foot traffic here to Downer Avenue," Baran said.

Business owners TMJ4 News spoke to say they look forward to the idea of more customers in the area, including Mike O'Connor, Vice-President of Historic Downer Avenue District.

"I think this is a win for everybody involved," O'Connor said.

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church owns the plot of land that the developers want to build the apartment on. It currently is a vacant lot at 2604 N. Hackett Ave.

The church is set to sell the property to developer Michael DeMichele and Three Leaf Partners. Five neighbors of the Hackett Avenue area are fighting against the project, arguing in their lawsuit that the project is not compatible with the neighborhood.

“The site’s block and neighborhood cannot absorb the population increase, population density, increased traffic, increased parking load, or increased safety risks posed by the non-conforming character and scope of the proposed complex," the lawsuit states, according to our partners at the Milwaukee Business Journal.

The Plan Commission unanimously approved the project, but on one condition: DeMichele and the development team must do a study about the proposed apartment building's impact on traffic and show it to the neighbors.

Former Ald. Nik Kovac used to represent the area in the Common Council, but the seat is now vacant after he became city budget director. The lawsuit does point this out and asks the city to delay the project until a new alderman is elected. Election day for the seat is scheduled for Nov. 8.

DeMichele said rent starts at around $1,000 for a studio apartment. He wants the building to be complete by March of 2024.

The building would contain 69 parking slots, a number opponents say is too small and would force more street parking.

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church wants to use the money it makes from the sale of the plot to demolish a 70-plus-year-old building next to its church, and replace it with offices, a child care facility, and a community area, the BizJournal reports.

The Common Council's zoning committee will review the proposal on Sept. 13 before it heads to the full council.

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