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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.

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.

Bob McBride July 31, 2012 at 12:29 PM
"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." *************** Nobody ever likes more multi-family housing. However, since the single family housing that predominates the area can't/won't support the "very attractive" (::cough::) commercial area, there really isn't a lot else to do. And, yes, it's big. ******************* "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." ******************** Did the BID have anyone there in person on their behalf, or did they just send a letter? If it was just a letter, then they missed an opportunity to be more involved in the process right there.
aaaaaa July 31, 2012 at 12:40 PM
I feel that kind of parking - basically in a parking ramp (I know it's on the ground level but it is enclosed) will be a turn off to shoppers. People like to scan a lot a see open spots. I do not ever feel safe in an enclosed parking structure. For example, I know many woman who have never used the parking structures at Bay Shore Mall and only use the open lots or street parking. In addition, I prefer single family homes in the Bay. This will not help our schools and increase enrollment. I wouldn't object to their building 2 of these structures but 3 is too many - that would leave some more open lot parking - and lessen the traffic (which an additional apartment residents would generate).
Linda Lang Hazaert July 31, 2012 at 01:11 PM
I was at the meeting and the presentation was done quite well. The visuals were impressive and they made a great case. It is a beautiful development and would add a cool vibe to our somewhat sleepy village. However, being an employee of a business on the main drag (Eleta salon) I would be a bit concerned for some of the more "mature" customers that get their hair done,shop or go to dental appointments along Silver Spring and the FoxBay bldg. They are also proposing that the bldg along SantaMonica not have the ground level parking where a current lot exists. I did speak on behalf of many of my clients and co-workers who fear the loss of parking which could result in loss of business, I recently moved my business to the Silver Spring area BECAUSE of the adequate parking for my clients, now I am worried.... I hear complaints about parking as it stands. "Word on the street" is that many of the employees of Sendiks, Aurora, and M&I park in the back lots, not to mention all of us that work in the FoxBay Bldg. Kind of funny how some of those business already have lots on their premises... and yes, I know it is public parking but.....Love the idea but believe it needs to be looked into more because once it's done that's it.
Bob McBride July 31, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Good point on the parking Linda. If parts of the lots are currently being utilized by employees of other establishments with ample parking of their own, that can't reasonably be expected to continue after construction of the development.
Shorelander July 31, 2012 at 04:13 PM
So .. let's go to the scoreboard: BID: No Individual Businesses: No Employees around SS: No Parkers: No Residents: No Mandel Group: YES, we like money Plan Commission: Yes CDA: TBD, but let's not fool ourselves: Yes Village Board: TBD, but let's not fool ourselves: Yes Gosh, I wonder what's going to happen here? Let's look into the crystal ball .. the CDA and Village Board will approve and give Mandel the $$$ it wants. Residents will get a new behemoth building that they can see and walk by, but with no retail, they get no actual benefit. Shoppers will lose parking, making the businesses unhappy. Of course, the parking decline will be mitigated by the reality that these luxury apartments are destined to suffer the same fate as the luxury condos on SS and Lake: languishing empty for years.
Sarah W. July 31, 2012 at 04:51 PM
The parking lots located behind the Fox Bay and Fitzgerald Pharmacy building are public lots owned by the village. 10hour behind Fox Bay and 2 hour behind Fitzgerald pharmacy. The 10hour lot is filled with people who work at businesses all around the silver spring stretch. The loss of employee parking will be great and the loss of parking for customers will be even bigger I fear. Also, why spend so many village tax dollars on re-surfacing the lots only to tear them up less than 2 years later. What a waste and not a well thought out plan.
Shorelander July 31, 2012 at 06:53 PM
That's 20/20 hindsight, Sarah. How would the Village know that New Land was going to default on their debt, then settle by selling some land to Anchor Bank, then that parcel being bought by Mandel who would propose this development? You can't defer maintenance based on the possibility that maybe, just maybe, a developer was going to step forward some day in the future.
DC July 31, 2012 at 07:03 PM
As a home owner on the 5500 block of N Diversey, I feel like I have as much of a dog in this fight as anyone. Count me as a resident very much in favor of this type of development. Retail follows roofs. The addition of 100 or so units filled with upwardly mobile residents is exactly what will lure a few decent restaurants and other shops Silver Spring. Maybe a quality operator (Landmark) would even look at Fox Bay. I already cannot park in front of my own home on Saturday or Sundays but I consider that the price I have to pay for living in a walkable community. In order for huge number of vacancies to go away on Silver Spring we need to improve our density. This plan calls for it and in a attractive way. I hope it continues to get green lighted.
Shorelander July 31, 2012 at 08:25 PM
DC, you think 100 apartments (let's say 200 adults max) is going to lure "a few decent restaurants"? Why would 200 more people lure what 14,000 have not? Even if you reduce it to "people in a 3 block radius around SS" you're talking 3,000 people. 200 more = drop in the bucket. We don't have restaurants because the Silver Spring landlords are charging $30-35 sqf, while Shorewood's Oakland are closer to $20-25/sqf with access to roughly the same clientele. You know what an extra 200 people will do? Embolden Silver Spring landlords to believe their property is worth even more, charge a higher rent. And .. don't hold your breath on the Fox Bay building ever being sold. New Land Enterprises will hold on to that sucker just for spite.
aaaaaa August 01, 2012 at 12:23 AM
EXCUSE ME - a "quality" operator? I have nothing but nice things to say about Brian - the owner of the Fox Bay. That is a snarky comment. And a lot of the problem is that the landlords are asking too much for the space on Silver Spring. This isn't going to change just bc there are apartments nearby. And where do you get the "upwardly mobile" from? That rent isn't THAT high. How do you know the quality of the renters (NOT OWNERS - BTW - PEOPLE WHO HAVE A STAKE IN OUR COMMUNITY). We do not have to improve our density we need to oust some of the bulding owners who would rather leave a building empty (IDK - is that a tax deduction - loss???) than charge a realistic lease to restaurant and shop owners. My understanding is that the rent is cheaper in Shorewood and that is why a lo of cool places are there.
aaaaaa August 01, 2012 at 12:25 AM
VERY articulate comments - thank you for your input
Bob McBride August 01, 2012 at 12:50 PM
Most of what's "cool" in Shorewood is in the ground floor of multi-purpose buildings (condos, apartments, retail, office - and parking in some cases) that were built recently. Not dissimilar to what Mandel is proposing. Shorewood also has a very aggressive (some would suggest overly aggressive) approach to developing its commercial district. We have virtually none. Rents can't be the only issue in WFB. I'd be willing to bet that a franchise like "Sweet Frog" isn't paying a high $/sqft for the space it's moving into. If a mobile phone store managed to survive for a year in the Fox Bay building (or even made an initial decision to move in there), the rents can't be that out of line. What's missing is traffic. Most weekdays midday you could shoot a canon down the sidewalk that runs from Starbucks to the Bank and the only thing you'd hit, prior to his store finally folding, was the owner of Simon Oliver standing out in front of his place looking like he was checking to make sure the Rapture hadn't taken place while he was in the little boys room. We don't have focus. We don't have a master plan. We have a BID that seems to get caught off-guard by every other business that takes a hike or shuts its doors. If we don't want to do anything to increase traffic by increasing the residents in the area who, by the very nature of the development, will shop there, then get used to vacancies and live with them.
aaaaaa August 01, 2012 at 07:07 PM
OK, then I say we quit comparing ourselves to Shorewood. A nice place to visit and eat but I wouldn't want to live there. Maybe, since Bayshore is nearby we don't need too more "shops". Restaurants, sure..... This is a community of people who, for the most part, love living here and don't want it to become too urbanized - I never feel my kids can't walk somewhere alone. Apartments change the nature of the community (have you ever noticed in the PATCH police report where crimes are happening?). And, like I said, as a woman I've trained my daughter to avoid parking in structures like these as much as possible for safety purposes.
Bob McBride August 01, 2012 at 07:26 PM
We've tried restaurants. They failed. The one everyone was all excited about last year looks like it's struggling at best. Why would anyone want to put another restaurant on that stretch?
aaaaaa August 02, 2012 at 02:21 AM
I'm sorry but they have to be GOOD.....
Bob McBride August 02, 2012 at 12:03 PM
Plenty of good restauranteurs in the GMA, running establishments in facilities with higher $/sqft rates than here. Why do you suppose that is?
aaaaaa August 02, 2012 at 01:16 PM
I do not know. Perhaps it's the actual landlords and their demeaners. I DO know, however, that eliminating good, easy parking isn't going to increase store traffic. I also know I don't want renters in my neighborhood. This isn't the Third Ward or, ahem, Shorewood, thank goodness!
Linda Lang Hazaert August 02, 2012 at 01:19 PM
SERVICE, good service. From what I have heard the service that was given in the two former restaurants (same address)that were located next to the theater, had terrible service and not the friendliness in the management. Along with high prices that didn't mesh with the inexperienced staff. Now the "other" new, highly anticipated establishment may have the same issue. Every time I have gone in there the young staff seamed more interested in "hanging out" (now I know I am old by saying that). With that said, the folks paying the bill want friendly,timely service and not to feel like they are interrupting a conversation, after all, it is all about them for that moment and their experience. Too much competition in our area to risk alienating customers.
Bob McBride August 02, 2012 at 01:42 PM
In some cases it's the same landlord, so you can check that off your list. The answer is customers. A good business owner is going to locate where he or she can count on getting enough customers. A low traffic, high vacancy shopping district isn't one of those places for a quality restaurant - regardless of what's being charged in the way of rent. In lieu of shopping and other retail attractions that bring in customers, the other option is high population density with a demographic leaning towards those that dine out frequently. Empty nesters living in rental properties or condominiums fit that demographic. Which explains why the number of restaurants has doubled or more in the area around Kensington and Oakland in the past year or so. What you want and what you don't want are in direct conflict. If you're representative of the feeling of those in WFB, then there's no sense bemoaning the absence of a good restaurant on that strip. It's not going to happen.
Bob McBride August 02, 2012 at 01:45 PM
That pretty much disqualifies them as being good restaurants and it's probably a reflection of the kind of thinking that brought them to locate on that strip in the first place.
Bob McBride August 02, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Oh, and as for the service at City Market, I think they're drawing from the same pool of employees as is Sendiks. They almost make you feel guilty for going through checkout or getting something from the deli counter.
aaaaaa August 02, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Linda - I agree - I gave them 15 + tries......I really WANTED to like them and support them. Question: now that we are interested in making WFB urban (first the extended hours at the JCC and now a big apartment complex) who is to say someone that owns a small 4-plex on Henry Clay isn't going to turn around and request a high-rise there? Where do we draw the line. P.S. I understand it's the same landlord in some cases and, well, let's leave it at that - ask people who have tried to lease...... I'm signing off now BC it appears SOMEONE (wink, wink) always likes to have the last word so I will let him.

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