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Wauwatosa tower proposal returns to Design Review Board after appeal

johnny vassalo.PNG
Posted at 1:31 PM, May 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-03 14:31:37-04

WAUWATOSA, Wis. — An appeal from neighbors has forced the proposal for a 28-story office and apartment tower in Wauwatosa back to the city's Design Review Board - the same body that approved plans earlier this year.

A city spokesperson tells us that residents filed the appeal with the Board of Zoning Appeals and urged board members to consider the building's effect on property values. The appeal board voted to return the proposal back to the Design Review Board and asked them to "issue a written decision based on its facts and findings."

The 28-story office and apartment tower is proposed by John “Johnny V” Vassallo. Last year's approval meant construction could have begun this September, with competition as early as spring of 2024.

The building, called Drew Tower, is set to include 65 apartments and about 80,000 square feet of office space, at Bluemound and Mayfair roads.

The project has faced pushback from Tosa residents, including the group Underwood Neighbors United. The group urged city officials that the development is "totally incompatible" with the neighborhood and existing properties.

The developer group responded that the building would not substantially lower values of existing properties, citing the values of homes near newer apartment buildings in the area.

In particular, residents are upset about the height — 28 floors. The next tallest building in the area is an Ascension Hospital, at just six floors. They also fear Drew Tower will set a precedent for other large buildings to go up in commercially zoned areas.

The Design Review Board meets on Thursday, May 5 at 7 p.m. over Zoom. The chair of the Design Review Board is not taking public comment during this meeting.

The city spokesperson says it is ultimately up to the Design Review Board to approve or deny the building - and not to the city's Plan Commission or Common Council - because the proposal fits as a “permitted use” in the C2 zoning district.

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