Irate neighbors on Milwaukee’s east side stand between Mercy Housing Lakefront’s $12.7 million apartment building and a March 26 project deadline.
The Chicago-based developer needs preliminary city approval to buy a parking lot for the project. March 26 is the application deadline to receive state affordable-housing tax credits needed to pay for the project, and the developer cannot apply for the credits without the parking lot approval.
The development, planned for a triangular lot bordered by North Murray, East Thomas and North Farwell avenues, includes eight townhouses and a building with 75 apartments.
But associations representing neighborhoods around the site are trying to slow approval of the parking lot sale because, the groups argue, city government and the developers have not shared project details.
Mike Maierle, speaking on behalf of the Greenwich Village Neighborhood Association, on Tuesday told city aldermen there will be problems if the parking lot sale is approved before the neighborhood gets a look at the project.
“If you want to keep making people angry,” he told aldermen, “keep doing what you are doing.”
The city received a letter from a second neighborhood association, the Historic Water Tower Neighborhood, requesting a delay in approval.
David Lyon, regional director of housing development for Mercy Housing, said he could not release details about the project earlier. The project hinges on Mercy Housing using a neighboring site owned by U.S. Bank, he said, and the agreement to use that land was not final until last month.
“This week is the first opportunity that we’ve created to get these discussions,” Lyon said, “simply because we wanted to make sure U.S. Bank is on board.”
Mercy Housing will present its plan to its neighbors Wednesday night at a meeting organized by the Greenwich Village group. The Milwaukee Public Works Committee on Tuesday delayed a vote on the $425,000 parking lot sale so people can weigh in.
Local Alderman Nik Kovac, who encouraged the delay, said he will wait to hear feedback on the project. If it is positive, he said, city aldermen can vote later this month on the parking lot and potentially approve it during a March 24 Common Council meeting.
“If everyone says no,” he said, “we’ll probably leave it held.”
Lyon said the development team can redesign portions of the project this month if people have concerns. The March 26 deadline is Mercy Housing’s only chance this year to apply for state tax credits. If the credits are approved, he said, the project can start in December. If the application is not sent in this month, he said, he will work with the neighborhood to get the project approved and started in 2011.
If the city approves the parking lot sale this month, Kovac said, residents will have the chance to comment on the project when Mercy Housing requests zoning approval.
“Our choice this month is either to say no or maybe,” he said.
Maierle said people in the neighborhood can stomach losing a debate over the project. But they will not tolerate being cut out of the approval process.
“Sometimes people disagree about outcomes,” he said, “and you can have a good discussion about outcomes.
“But when you have a disagreement about process, that’s when people get angry.”