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Design board OKs 28-story Wauwatosa tower

A rendering of the 28-story office and apartment Drew Tower, which the Wauwatosa Design Review Board gave its approval to on Thursday. (Rendering courtesy of Kahler Slater)

Wauwatosa officials signed off Thursday on the design of a 28-story office and apartment tower that elicited pushback from area residents, paving the way for construction to proceed.

The city’s Design Review Board voted 4-2 vote in favor of the project, called Drew Tower, which is to be built on a site at the corner of North Mayfair and West Bluemound roads. The decision comes after an investment group led by the Wauwatosa restaurant owner John Vassallo changed the project’s layout to avoid needing approval from Wauwatosa’s Common Council.

Dennis Scherr, chairman of the design review board, said the project team made “thoughtful and insightful” design changes in response to the board’s concerns about the project. Kahler Slater was the designer of the tower.

Vassallo previously proposed two other versions of the tower, both of which elicited stiff opposition from residents. Once called for a tower standing 25 stories tall with 350 apartment units. The investment group later reduced the project to 20 stories, but was still faced with opposition from city leaders and residents who were concerned about the tower could mean for a mostly residential neighborhood lying southwest of the project site.

In February, the group pulled its plans for the project from city consideration as the city’s Common Council appeared ready to reject plans for the tower.

The group returned to the city in November with another reworked design that reduced the number of apartment units to 65 and added plans for 80,000 square feet of office space in the 364-foot-tall tower. That change brought the project into keeping with the site’s existing zoning rules — which have no height requirement — allowing the tower to proceed without approval from Wauwautosa’s full council.

The design review board also fielded various complaints about the project when Vassallo resubmitted its plan for approval in November. That board, though, has authority to evaluate only the aesthetic aspects of new building projects.

Brian Randall, an attorney with Davis and Kuelthau representing the development group, said the project isn’t seeking tax incentives from Wauwatosa and is expected to be assessed at $50 million once construction wraps up in 2024.

“This project is not seeking any TIF, and it will be immediately beneficial to all of the taxing jurisdictions,” Randall said.

About Nate Beck, [email protected]

Nate Beck is The Daily Reporter's construction staff writer. He can be reached at (414) 225-1814 (office) or 414-388-5635 (mobile).

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