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Hide House project survives history hearing

By: Joe Yovino//July 23, 2009//

Hide House project survives history hearing

By: Joe Yovino//July 23, 2009//

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Sean Ryan
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A Milwaukee committee’s decision to protect some of the Hide House building while leaving other parts open for demolition drew criticism the city is improperly using its historic designation process.

The city’s Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee on Thursday voted 3-2 to give historic protections to a portion of the Hide House complex rather than to the entire property. The protections do not extend to the northern portion of the building, which owners General Capital Group LLP and Bedrock Capital Group LLC plan to demolish. The company wants to use Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority tax credits to build 60 apartments in place of the demolished section.

But project neighbors argue they did not have adequate opportunity to comment on the project. The public hearing before the vote was meant only to consider the building owners’ appeal, however, of the city Historic Preservation Commission’s decision to grant a temporary historic designation to the building.

“I really don’t care what it is,” said Chuck Stamschror, who lives near the Hide House building. “Give me a chance and give my neighbors a chance to ask questions.”

The historic designation process must focus exclusively on the historic significance of the building, said James Witkowiak, chairman of the Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee. He repeatedly reminded residents Thursday that they could only comment on the building’s history and not offer opinions about the proposed affordable apartments.

Alderman Robert Bauman, who supported Alderman Tony Zielinski’s proposal to create an interim historic designation to protect the entire building, said city rules let developers file separate requests to demolish portions of historic buildings. Those hearings, unlike the discussion Thursday, let aldermen and residents consider future development and other issues beyond whether a building meets the city definition of historic.

After Thursday’s meeting, Matt Jarosz, chairman of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, argued the interim designation serves as an emergency tactic to let the city get more information about a building history.

Alderman Nik Kovac said he will argue against the partial designation Tuesday when the Common Council considers it. He said the city will lose its chance to consider potential redevelopment when making a decision on the demolition of the northern portion of the Hide House building if the city does not protect it.

“The discussion this morning was really not the right discussion,” he said. “It should not be about the future project.”


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