Shorewood residents upset about six-story building

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July 9, 2014

Shorewood — Tensions escalated at a packed public hearing about the Shorewood Metro Market development — not because residents opposed the two-story grocery store, but because of the six-story building on the north end of the project.

Despite residents' concerns about height, the Village Board unanimously approved the two-story Metro Market grocery store, a four-story parking garage and a six-story building containing three to five retailers on ground level and 96 luxury apartments on the upper levels. The project, located on the west end of Oakland Avenue, will span the length of the old Walgreens parking lot on Kenmore Place to the current Pick 'n Save grocery store at Olive Street.

Residents' concerns about the six-story building rose to a boiling point the weekend before the Monday, July 7, meeting, as Olive Street resident John Townsend went around the village and gathered more than 600 petition signatures from residents. The petition opposed a zoning variance allowing the six-story building, arguing the village should stick with its existing height restrictions prohibiting anything taller than four stories or 60 feet. The petition of residents, as well as another petition from 10 adjacent land owners, were submitted before the meeting.

Although The Mandel Group's six-story Lighthorse 4041 was recently built next door, many residents said they were worried about the shadows that would be cast by a six-story building or the impact it would have on the traffic, parking and the general ambience of Oakland Avenue.

"This is insane that we are talking about a six-story building going up in this area," said resident Isaac Pierre.

Sig Strautmanis from General Capital Group said the height of the mixed-use building is necessary to make the project financially feasible. He has shaved 11 feet off the originally proposed height, bringing the total height to nearly 74 feet. To avoid a 6-foot wall directly abutting the sidewalk, he has pushed the fifth and sixth floors toward the center of the building.

"This isn't just one large building," Strautmanis said. "It's an assembly of pieces put together in an interesting way at different heights and different levels."

Trustee Michael Maher attempted to make a motion to reduce the building height to five stories, but Village Attorney Raymond Pollen advised that a change in the building height would require village officials to go back to the drawing board with the developer.

Village officials did look at the financial impact of reducing the building to five stories, and determined that the village's $5.5 million parking structure grant would have to be increased by $2.2 million to make up for the developer's loss in rent money. Losing one story of apartments would also shave $3 million in assessed value, which would cause the TIF to close four years later than projected, according to Community Development Authority Chairman Pete Petrie.

Michael Paulson, who previously served two terms on the CDA, said the village has waited 10 years for the right developer to present the right plan for this property.

"If we don't approve the six-story building as is, I think we will have to wait another 10 years before we see something there," he said. "I don't think we are going to see a better deal if we don't move forward here."

Most of the people who spoke out against the height of the building said they supported the project overall, as it would be a welcome change from the current scene: a vacant building formerly housing Harry W. Schwartz bookstore, the old Walgreens building and what Roundy's officials say is a small, outdated Pick 'n Save grocery store.

"What you've got today is quite honestly a store that is held together by Band-Aids," said Dan Farrell, the vice president of real estate at Roundy's.

Construction will begin in September, assuming the project receives approval from the Design Review Board, as well as a developer's agreement from the village board. The Metro Market and parking deck are expected to be finished by the fall of 2015. Construction work will move north at that time, with the construction of the mixed-use building finishing up in 2016.

Shorewood will contribute $13.8 million to the $45.7 million project. The village's contribution includes a $5.5 million grant for the parking structure, which will cost the village $6.3 million including financing costs, and a $6.5 million repayable loan, which equals $7.5 million with financing costs.

The redevelopment would turn a $7.5 million property into a $37.8 million property, creating an additional $30.2 million in incremental value for taxing entities. That increment will be used to help the village recoup its investment over the next 15 years, at which point the additional value will start generating revenue for the tax rolls. During those 15 years, though, taxing bodies will only receive tax revenue on the base value of $7.5 million, foregoing the additional tax revenue created by site improvements.

Some residents, like lifelong resident Robert Dean, said the additional tax base is necessary for Shorewood's financial health.

"We need this financial base to support the schools, which is why a lot of us live here," he said.

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