Milwaukee could stymie an affordable housing project at the Hide House if the city awards the former tannery in Bay View historic status.
The Hide House buildings at 2625 S. Greeley St. were built for the J. Greenebaum Tanning Co. in 1894.
General Capital Group LLP, Fox Point, spent $250,000 renovating parts of the building for office lofts and art studios since buying the property in 2006. The next step in redeveloping the property is demolishing the northern portion of the structure to develop the Hide House Lofts, which will include 60 apartments for low-income residents and 50 underground parking spaces.
The project was awarded $1.09 million in Wisconsin affordable housing tax credits in April.
Sig Strautmanis, General Capital Group partner, said he does not know what will happen to the plan if the petition to give the Hide House city of Milwaukee historic protection succeeds. He said General Capital will preserve all but the northern end of the building but does not want historic protection because it limits how the building can be reused.
“It has very serious implications on the flexibility that we as building owners have on doing what we believe is appropriate for the building,” Strautmanis said.
Bay View resident Michael A. Lana, who lives near the Hide House, said he does not want any part of the tannery demolished. He said there are other urban sites that could just as easily be redeveloped.
“I’m not against low-income housing,” he said, “but to demolish a piece of history like that for any type, for any thing, is just ridiculous.”
Alderman Tony Zielinski, who filed the petition to give the building historic protection, said he wants the developers to share more project information with residents. He is trying to block the demolition while also forcing a neighborhood meeting on the project.
But at least one tenant said the redevelopment is a good move.
Tom Orlando, lead pastor of the Mercy Hill Church in the Hide House, said the building was in shambles before General Capital bought it and brought in tenants. He said the northern end of the building slated for demolition is in terrible shape.
“It’s a difficult site, as far as the building is concerned,” he said. “If they can do something with it, that would be positive.
“I think this would be great, because two, two and a half years ago, it was just people tagging it with graffiti.”
Strautmanis said General Capital is sharing information with the neighborhood about the income level of residents who would live in the Hide House Lofts and the plan to preserve most of the structure. He said he thinks Zielinski is using the historic designation process to oppose the project because of his concerns over the affordable housing components.
Strautmanis said the Hide House Lofts project would be followed by construction of condos in other portions of the Hide House. The condos would not have income restrictions.
“There’s no one more interested in preserving property values and in increasing property values as us,” Strautmanis said. “This is the first step to creating a dynamic, mixed-use community down there.”