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Neglect the neighbors, pay the price

By Tom Fetters

We’re about to find out how quickly a builder can mend a fence.

In its effort to quietly work out all of the details for a planned $12.7 million apartment building on Milwaukee’s east side, Mercy Housing Lakefront’s development team apparently neglected one vital partnership: the neighbors around the proposed project.

Now, needing crucial city approval in less than three weeks in order to meet the application deadline for state affordable-housing tax credits to help pay for the project, Mercy Housing execs find themselves in dire need of support from their neglected partners.

And those partners apparently are not too pleased about being left out of the loop.

Two neighborhood groups, the Greenwich Village Neighborhood Association and the Historic Water Tower Neighborhood Association, have spoken out against immediate city approval. And the Milwaukee Public Works Committee followed the groups’ wishes this week by delaying the key vote until neighborhood residents can learn about the proposed project and have their say.

So now the pressure is on Mercy Housing to win over its neglected partners — quickly.

Its first formal chance comes tonight at a meeting organized by the Greenwich Village group.

Instead of having to win over an audience that feels alienated, wouldn’t it be easier if some relationship-building had taken place beforehand?

Sure, Mercy Housing didn’t want to disclose all of its hopes and dreams for the project until arrangements came together, but some general info-sharing and goodwill-building with the neighbors starting months ago would make the task at hand much easier.

Rather than having to mend a fence in a hurry, Mercy Housing could be building on a firm foundation as a trusted partner.

Tom Fetters is a copy editor at The Daily Reporter and hosts his neighborhood’s annual block party.

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