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Alderman: Go green or go away

By Sean Ryan

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Citywide Development LLC is the first private developer in Bay View to test a local alderman’s demand for green construction.

Tony Zielinski, the alderman representing Milwaukee’s Bay View neighborhood, refuses to support project plans unless they require at least half of a new building’s energy come from renewable or on-site sources. He is asking Citywide, which is planning a four-story apartment building, to meet the benchmark.

“Originally, they wanted just to do a regular apartment building,” Zielinski said. “But I talked to them about incorporating things like renewable energy.”

The project is planned for a vacant property on the northwest corner of South Robinson Avenue and East Ward Street.

Deb Lindner, a member of Milwaukee-based Citywide, said she thinks the project can hit the 51 percent renewable energy benchmark. But the design team, led by The Kubala Washatko Architects Inc., Cedarburg, still is redesigning the project to incorporate sustainable building features.

“We’re working on that right now,” Lindner said. “And, depending on what Kubala Washatko comes up with, we’re going to see some of that renewable energy and, hopefully, we can sell some of that back to We Energies.”

James Read, project manager at Kubala Washatko, said he does not want to raise anyone’s hopes because the designers are just starting to look into renewable energy sources. The designers are considering solar-thermal water heating, geothermal heating and cooling, and a high-efficiency building envelope.

“We’re feeling like that can be achieved through a number of different ways,” Read said, “but we’re monitoring the energy at this moment.”

Earlier this year, when Milwaukee issued a request for development proposals for property in Bay View, Zielinski demanded the city favor projects with 100 percent renewable energy sources because developers only would have to pay $1 for the land.

For the private sector, he said, he’s lowering the bar to 50 percent.

“What I’m trying to do is educate the public,” he said, “and say renewable energy is cost-effective.”

The apartment building is the first component of Citywide’s plan (PDF) to redevelop a 6.5-acre site, some of which is vacant and some covered by vacant industrial buildings. The developer on Monday will ask the Milwaukee Plan Commission to rezone the property for the apartment development.

Lindner said the plan is to start building the apartments next year and to continue to include renewable energy in future phases.

“It’s very difficult to get to 100 percent,” she said. “But I think as we go and we progress with the development of the area, we’re going to expand and progress with that.”

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