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Alterra project picks up Milwaukee support

By Sean Ryan

Neighborhood support for construction of an Alterra Coffee Roasters Inc. bakery was enough to persuade Milwaukee aldermen Tuesday to back the project.

The Milwaukee-based company is planning an estimated $4 million renovation project to build a bakery and coffee shop on Kinnickinnic Avenue. The developer requested city approval to use a public, tax-free bonding program to borrow money for the project at a low interest rate.

Milwaukee Alderman Tony Zielinski, who represents the area, called a public hearing after residents raised questions about the project and concerns that it would create too much competition for nearby coffee shops.

Although some Bay View neighborhood residents raised those concerns during the Monday night public hearing, the majority of residents supported the project.

“We have an opportunity here,” said Amy Schubert, who lives in the area. “I don’t want to see us become the neighborhood that says no to everything.”

Greg Mertens, secretary/treasurer of the Wild Flour Bakery, last week visited Milwaukee City Hall to ask aldermen to delay approval of the project so neighborhood residents could weigh in. Mertens said he now supports the project because he believes it will increase the value of his nearby property and, perhaps, generate business if the company buys bread from Wild Flour.

“It’s important that the community had its say,” he said.

Zielinski supported the city approval for the Alterra bonds and said he received 30 calls and e-mails supporting the project and only four against. The $7.8 million in bonds approved for Alterra will pay for four projects, including the Bay View bakery.

Alterra will borrow all of the money through the city bonds, and the city will not spend money on any of the projects.

Milwaukee Common Council members on Tuesday voted 13-1, with one abstention, to approve the bonds.

Lincoln Fowler, a partner in Alterra, said city approval for the bonds is an early step in the project. He said he will seek approval May 20 for a zoning change to the Bay View property.

“We don’t force-feed this,” he said. “We can’t have a viable business if the neighborhood doesn’t support us.”

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