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Hide House developer seeks local support

Sean Ryan
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A developer is trying to gain the trust of people who say the Hide House project threatens the neighborhood’s peace but is getting rammed through Milwaukee City Hall anyway.

General Capital Group LLP, Milwaukee, wants to tear down a part of the former tannery, now called the Hide House, and develop 60 apartments reserved for low-income people. Sig Strautmanis, a General Capital partner, on Tuesday spent three hours meeting face-to-face with Bay View residents to field questions about the project. A second open house is scheduled for Friday.

“We were very frustrated with misinformation and rumors that were filtering through the neighborhood,” Strautmanis said. “I think the best way to combat misinformation is with good information and factual information.”

The company’s plan to build the apartment is on hold after the city’s Historic Preservation Commission last month gave the building temporary historic protection that would prevent demolition for the apartment project. Strautmanis said clearing the air with neighbors will bolster General Capital’s appeal to the Milwaukee Common Council to reverse the decision.

“I don’t expect everybody to agree with me,” he said, “but if they don’t agree with me because of rumors or bad information, then no one wins.”

Low-income apartments, no matter how they are sugarcoated, will attract “undesirable” people, said Michael A. Lana, who lives near the Hide House. Lana said he does not trust General Capital enough to accept the company’s promise to manage the apartments properly.

“There are a lot of, a lot of, good people on fixed incomes and low incomes that would be a perfect neighbor,” Lana said. “But I really don’t know (General Capital’s) true intent.”

Twelve apartments in the Hide House Lofts have a maximum income of $14,850 for a one-person household, the lowest limit in the building, while the highest one-person income limit is $29,700, which applies to 24 units. The highest permitted income is $42,420 for a four-person household. Strautmanis said General Capital considers the apartments a steppingstone to developing condos on the Hide House property, so the company also wants to keep the area healthy.

Lana said he does not trust General Capital because the developer tried to get a building permit for the project without organizing a public meeting to discuss the plans with neighbors. He said he also thinks the project will get approved no matter what residents say.

“One their Web site, it looks nice, it really looks nice,” he said about a rendering of the project. “But is that what they’re really going to do? At this point, I really don’t trust them.”

Strautmanis said the city did not organize a formal meeting because the project did not need a zoning change, a process that requires public hearings. He said he prefers informal meetings and speaking with residents directly, as he did Tuesday.

“There is no secret relating to our concept, relating to our project, relating to our complex,” Strautmanis said.

Local Alderman Tony Zielinski said General Capital avoided his offers to organize open houses. He dismissed the open houses as a ruse intended to give the developer a better story to tell aldermen when asking them to reverse the Historic Preservation Commission decision.

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