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Mixed Community Reaction to Mandel Apartment Proposal

After a public hearing, the Whitefish Bay Plan Commission made a recommendation to the Village Board that the luxury apartment development move forward.

Mixed Community Reaction to Mandel Apartment Proposal Mixed Community Reaction to Mandel Apartment Proposal Mixed Community Reaction to Mandel Apartment Proposal Mixed Community Reaction to Mandel Apartment Proposal

The Village Board chambers were nearly packed with residents interested in voicing their opinions about The Mandel Group's at a public hearing Monday night.

The proposal calls for a $27 million three-building development containing 100 high-end apartments in the parking lots north of Silver Spring Drive, between Santa Monica and Diversey boulevards.

The two buildings on the east end of the site would feature underground parking for residents, ground level parking for retail customers and three levels of apartments above the sheltered parking area.

The two 54-foot buildings would be separated by a 40-foot-wide pedestrian walkway that would connect to Silver Spring through the space between the former Cutters barbershop and the former El Guapo's space.

The four-story building on the west end would feature terrace apartments on the first level instead of ground level parking. Residents of that building would also park in an underground structure.

Mandel's proposed monthly rental costs range from $1,300 for a one-bedroom to $2,400 for larger units.

After hearing comments from the public, the Plan Commission made a recommendation to the Village Board to move forward with the rezoning and construction of the development, but made an additional suggestion that trustees take into consideration the parking issues presented at the meeting.

Residents offer mixed reactions

Tom Schmid, a former village trustee and CDA member, said the Mandel development is “exactly what we envisioned" when the Silver Spring Master Plan was created in 2003. Schmid said the economic growth on the north end of Oakland Avenue in Shorewood was made possible by higher density housing within a 50-yard radius.

Tom Harris, a lifelong Bay resident and the owner of and , agreed.

“I think this is really what our shopping district needs to revitalize it back to what it once was,” he said.

Dan Cohen, a former CDA member and president of Mid-America Real Estate, said residential and commercial growth go hand in hand.

"Something like this will certainly help fill the vacancies and bring the right retailers to the community," he said.

On the other hand, David Siler, a resident since 1974, said he doesn't like the idea of more multi-family housing in Whitefish Bay or the aesthetic impact of the project.

"It's going to leave a very heavy footprint and it's going change the aesthetic of a very attractive commercial area," he said.

Parking concerns

Under the proposed parking configuration, three of the 135 parking stalls would be lost in the eastern parking lots, and an additional 45 parking stalls would be lost in the lot closest to Santa Monica Boulevard.

Bob Monnat, chief operating officer of The Mandel Group, said the company will soon close on a deal to purchase that westernmost lot from Anchor Bank, which acquired the lots from New Land Enterprises through foreclosure.

An additional 34 parking spaces may be available in the lower level of the Fox Bay building, but the space is not fully-developed up to standards, Monnat said. In the future, Village Attorney Chris Jaekels said the CDA will meet in closed session to negotiate potential tax incremental district (TID) funds for that project.

Mandel hired consulting firm Ayres Associates to conduct a traffic and parking study. After studying parking lot usage over three days, the firm found that the three eastern lots peaked at 70 percent occupancy between the hours of 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on a Friday. The 10-hour employee lots were almost entirely packed between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., while the lot nearest Santa Monica Boulevard was running at 85 percent capacity during that time period.

"The 10-hour lot fills and then it spills out on Beaumont," Monnat said. "That's going to be the bigger issue, how you accomodate the employees. That's where the tightness is on allocation right now."

The proposed parking configuration would reduce the amount of street openings from five to two, and would eliminate the need to pull in and out of Beaumont Avenue while browsing the rows of parking stalls.

Andy Garrison, whose family owns the spaces from 400-406 East Silver Spring Drive, said he's in favor of development, but said the demand for employee and customer parking will go up as storefronts fill.

"I think we need further research that tells us about the demands of the Fox Bay building fully occupied and other buildings fully occupied," he said.

Boris Gokhman, the owner of the Fox Bay building, has hired attorney Jeremy Levinson. Levinson said more parking opportunities should be explored through an open, collaborative process with the village.

"With this kind of project in this unique location, once it is put in place, if unforeseen consequences come to bear, there is precious little that can be done to change those," he said.

New retail space not on the table

In a letter to village officials, Whitefish Bay Business Improvement District officials said they are in favor of the development, but feel the new building could lure a promising commercial tenant, which could then act as a catalyst for retail growth on the street.

The letter states apartments alone will not have a significant benefit for the business district and requested the BID have a more formal involvement in the process in the future.

"We do not think the Mandel Development, as proposed, enhances the business district in the long term, and we would like to assist the Village in achieving that universally desired result," the letter stated.

When asked about the prospect of commercial uses on the site, Monnat said the most profitable retail districts feature retail shops facing each other on the same street. He said any commercial use in the proposed development would be a distraction from filling the current vacancies.

"We can't understand why you'd want to encourage any type of commercial development that's not on Silver Spring," he said.

TID details to be discussed

Monnat said the project would not be possible without the use of village TID funding, and the developers would keep their books open to the village throughout the process to prove it.

Monnat said his company is requesting a two-part tax incremental financing (TIF), made up of a conventional TIF as well as a pay-as-you-go TIF.

, Monnat said his company would be requesting $1.7 million in TIF bonds to finance an estimated $2.7 million in public parking renovations. The village would retain ownership over the eastern parking lot and a redesigned public walkway.

Once the project is built and stabilized, the developer estimates the village would receive an additional $320,000 in annual tax revenue.

The details of a possible TIF district will be discussed by the Community Development Authority meeting on Aug. 6. The developer's rezoning request and other details will be compiled in a development agreement that will go before the Village Board for final approval at a future date.

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