George Washington Bay View Post 180 May Be Demolished

August 1, 2018

George Washington Bay View Legion Post 180.      Courtesy GW BV Post 180

“A Bay View landmark since 1941, this building has served its country as home to the George Washington Bay View American Legion Post 180. Now it’s time to serve the community in a different way.” So reads a sentence in First Weber Realtors’ listing for the red brick building perched on the corner of Kinnickinnic and Fulton.

An offer to purchase the property, 2860 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., is pending, contingent on the prospective buyer successfully obtaining a raze permit from the city of Milwaukee, according to Emily Huf of Shoreline Contracting Services, Milwaukee.

Huf filed the application to raze the building on behalf of her client July 30.

Huf said the buyer’s identity will be revealed “as soon as the city issues the raze permit.” She anticipates the review process, which includes searching for existing historic preservation designation or other restrictions, will take about two weeks.

The property is listed for $699,000.

The 7,194-square-foot building consists of an open auditorium on the main floor and a bar and restaurant on the lower level, equipped with a full kitchen and walk-in cooler. The lot is .69 acres and includes a 54-space parking lot.

As the Compass reported in 2014, Post 180 began in June 1927 when Fred Osterndorf, who later became the post’s first commander, began recruiting local veterans to a Bay View chapter of the national American Legion. In 1928, the post was chartered as Bay View Post 180 and was headquartered in a (no longer existing) building, 2530 S. Shore Dr., that it leased from the Carnegie Illinois Steel Company of Chicago. Soon the post’s membership grew and its services expanded. By the next decade, it became clear the post needed to move to a larger building. The building it now occupies was erected  in 1941. The post purchased the land from the city of Milwaukee and constructed the building for $25,000.

In 1971, Bay View Post 180 merged with the St. Francis Post and was re-chartered as Bay View St. Francis Post 180. After another merger in 2002 with the George Washington Post, it was renamed yet again, and still today goes by the name George Washington Bay View Post 180. The function of the organization has remained the same throughout its nearly 90 year history—to mentor and sponsor youth programs, promote and advocate for veterans affairs, to rehabilitate veterans, and to provide a social and democratic forum for veterans.

At one time, Post 180 boasted 1,000-plus members but by 2014, it had dwindled to 177.

In 2014, Bob Schlemm, a 40-year Post 180 member said that his group was confronting the perception that the Legion was for senior veterans. “We’re struggling right now,” he said. “We’re struggling to find memberships, and it’s not that we’re short of veterans…We just went down to the Reserve Center two weekends ago and one of the things we were approached with was, ‘Well I’m not 60, 70 years old; why would I want to belong to an American Legion? My father belonged to it.’”

Constructed in 1941, the brick Georgian Revival building was designed by Nicholas Backes, who also designed the former American Legion Headquarters in Milwaukee, 812 E. State Street, in 1923.

A number of different restaurateurs operated as tenants in the building. The most recent was Little DeMarinis pizzeria, which closed in March.

A review of the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Architecture and History Inventory records would indicate that there are no existing historical designations for the building.

This report will be updated when the Compass receives comment from the Legion’s members.

In 1928 the first local post was chartered as Bay View Post 180 and was headquartered in a building at 2530 S. Shore Drive that it leased from the Carnegie Illinois Steel Company of Chicago. Courtesy George Washington Bay View American Legion Post 180

 


Bay View Apartment Building Boasts Prairie Gardens

July 31, 2018

By Sheila Julson

Former owner Mike Grinker planted two sections of prairie plants at the apartment building, 2624 S. Austin St., replacing a grass lawn. He was motivated by his desire to beautify the property for the benefit of his neighbors and other residents and to do his part to provide pollinator habitat. —Photo Katherine Keller

A Bay View apartment building on the corner of East Dover and South Austin streets has its own little prairie ecosystem. A vibrant mix of native prairie grasses and flowering perennials dance and bob in the breeze. Planted on the east and south property borders, purple coneflower, Black-eyed Susans, orange butterfly milkweed, and other native prairie species attract bees, butterflies, and other wildlife.

“When I was here yesterday mowing lawn, about five goldfinches came flying out. If you think about it, this is nature’s bird feeder. I’ve also seen baby rabbits,” said Scott Silverson, who, with his wife Emily, owns the building on Austin Street. They also own a dozen other properties throughout Milwaukee, through their property management firm Plinth Group, LLC.

The prairie plants on the steep incline that borders the parking
lot help slow and deter storm water runoff because their root systems are deep and the water tends to penetrate better. —Photo Katherine Keller

Silverson purchased the Austin Street build­ing from previous owner Mike Grinker in Spring 2017. Grinker, who owned the building for five years, was motivated to create the prairie gardens in response to reports of the declining numbers of bees and butterflies. “We had a desire to do our part and a desire to beautify the property
for the benefit of our neighbors and residents,” Grinker said. He and his wife Sharon worked with Chris Miracle from LandWorks, Inc., in Sussex, Wis., to make the plant selections.

“The landscaping has native plants and flowers. It’s something different, since there are already a lot of manicured lawns out there,” he said.

Silverson continues to work with LandWorks to help maintain the prairie gardens.

“It’s a big deal for pollinators, and there are many discussions in the news about how bees and bee habitat are disappearing, and that’s a problem,” Silverson said. Currently, Austin Street is the sole building among his properties that boasts a prairie garden. However, he recently finished a yard restoration project at another property where he replaced worn grass with a small garden plot for the residents to enjoy from their back porch.

Since he’s owned the property, Silverson made changes on the north side of the building. He removed trees that were too close to the neighbor’s house and replaced them with a mix of random plants and groundcover. LandWorks also assisted with that project.

The prairie plants on the steep incline that borders the parking lot help slow and deter storm water runoff because their root systems are deep and the water tends to penetrate better. “There are no big gushes of water. The Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewage District doesn’t have to drain as much [runoff water]. It’s a win-win all the way around,” Silverson said.

During the summer months, the prairie garden is in full bloom. Wisps of color accent lush greenery. But Silverson said that in spring and fall, the gardens take on a weak, weedy look. So he placed signs in each garden to inform passersby that they are looking at “native prairie plants.” The sign further informs, Please do not spray or mow. This area had been planted with native wildflowers and grasses, providing diverse habitat for pollinators, birds, and other wildlife.

“The signs are a way for people walking down the sidewalk to recognize what it is, and to maybe be inspired to try it themselves,” Silverson said. His tenants enjoy it, plus he uses the garden to market the building when he has a vacancy. 

—Photo Katherine Keller

The prairie gardens do not make the property maintenance-free, but Silverson said he probably does less maintenance than he would if the property was surrounded with a grass lawn.

This past spring, Silverson worked with LandWorks specialists to cut the garden back with a special trimmer and rake out weeds and dead plants. They also rake in autumn and harvest seeds for later use.

Silverson is intrigued by the gardening process and enjoys the trial and error, like watching plants grow, pulling weeds, and seeing where plants do or do not fill in an area.

He stressed that patience is a virtue, especially when establishing a prairie garden. “If you want it to be green tomorrow, you need to get sod!” he said with a laugh. “This takes a couple of years to get established, but I love it.”


Lincoln Warehouse Owners Purchase Hide House

July 31, 2018

By Katherine Keller

General Capital purchased the Hide House in 2008, originally intending to convert the brick structure to condominiums. —Photo Katherine Keller

Boston-area-based attorneys Richard Gold and Tom Gold have purchased the Hide House in Bay View.

The four-building factory complex that straddles South Greeley St. between Dover Street and Deer Place has served as a hub for artists and small businesses for a decade and a half.

Father and son team Richard and Tom Gold acquired the complex for $2.4 million dollars from General Capital of Fox Point.

After purchasing the Hide House, General Capital tended to deferred maintenance projects like brick tuck-pointing, roofing, and other structural repairs. During its tenure, it also renovated and improved underutilized spaces to increase the number of creative suites. “We added over 50,000 square feet of new tenant space after acquiring the property.” Sig Strautmanis said.

Alton Bathrick (Alton Enterprises) and his son Gibson Bathrick purchased the property in 2001 to redevelop it as artist studios and band rehearsal space. They began with the largest building, 2625 S. Greeley, replacing windows, installing bathrooms, and making electrical and other improvements.

General Capital purchased the property in 2008 for an undisclosed price, originally intending to convert the brick structure to condominiums.

“At the time we purchased the property, we had envisioned converting the property into an affordable condo complex,” said Sig Strautmanis, a member of General Capital’s development team.

“We partnered with our friend Robert Joseph, who is an expert at adaptive reuse of historic buildings and has done numerous residential conversions. Of course, our plans came to a screeching halt with the recession. I became more involved in the property personally after we decided to forego any plans for a huge residential conversion, and to, instead, stabilize the property as a creative arts space, community magnet for the arts—creative class type of stuff.”

General Capital tended to deferred maintenance projects like brick tuck-pointing, roofing, and other structural repairs. During its tenure, it also renovated and improved underutilized spaces to increase the number of creative suites.

“We added over 50,000 square feet of new tenant space after acquiring the property.” Strautmanis said. 

Richard and Tom Gold own the Lincoln Warehouse, 2018 S. First St., a property similar to the Hide House, located a mile north on the northeast corner of Becher and First streets. In 1986, Walter Gold, Richard Gold’s father, owned a warehouse in downtown Milwaukee when he purchased the Lincoln property. At that time, its tenants were chiefly using it as storage and warehouse space. 

Gold had purchased his downtown property, 1110 N. Old World Third St., in 1924. Built in 1923, according to city records, and situated on the Milwaukee River, the building served as a warehouse for river transport and rail trade. (Decades later one of the building’s tenants was Lucille’s Piano Bar.)

In the 1950s when large tractor-trailer trucks began to replace river and rail transport, Gold was challenged because his building’s docks were not accessible by the big vehicles. 

Gold sold the Old World Third building in 1986 and purchased the five-story Lincoln building the same year. He transferred his warehouse business to the new south side venue that was two blocks from I-94 and offered better accessibility for semis. 

Built in 1928, the Lincoln building once served as grocery chain A&P’s storage facility. There was also a bakery in the building at one time, which some Bay View residents recall as being A&P’s. Huffy manufactured basketball backboards in the building and Foamation, maker of Cheesehead hats and other gear, started up in the Lincoln building in 1980. Necco candy processed its candy Valentine hearts in the building.

Richard and Tom Gold said they always envisioned the vast Lincoln building as a storage facility but when they hired Andrew Bandy as their developer of properties and broker to rent space, he suggested the building’s assets could be better utilized.

“He convinced us we didn’t understand the building,” Tom Gold said. He pointed out its beautiful windows and wonderful light. Convinced, they began to change their business model to attract small business start-ups, small businesses, and artists. 

There were 22 tenants in the Lincoln Warehouse when they began the conversion in 2007. Currently
there are more than 140 tenants who occupy 168,000 square feet of the converted space. A few tenants still use the building for storage.

The new Hide House owners intend to continue renovating the buildings. There are unoccupied spaces in the main building, 2625 S. Greeley St., that they will build out and fill with a similar tenant base and they will update the basement of Building 10, 2612 S. Greeley, and seek a tenant. 

“We will follow the same philosophy as Lincoln Warehouse and continue to build out for the next few years as demand requires. Eventually, we will add as many as 40 new spaces,” Bandy said. Currently there are 60 tenants.

When the Hide House came on the market in 2015, the Golds felt it was a good fit. The tenant base and its community was similar to the Lincoln Warehouse and Richard and Tom were drawn to the “buildings’ style, exposed brick, and beautiful wood floors.”

“We love the tenants,” Tom Gold said. “They’re good people, good tenants. We appreciate their spirit and drive and camaraderie. They are people working together. It’s a wonderful community.”

The new Hide House owners intend to continue renovating the buildings. There are unoccupied spaces in the main building, 2625 S. Greeley St., that they will build out and fill with a similar tenant base and they will update the basement of Building 10, 2612 S. Greeley, and seek a tenant. 

“We will follow the same philosophy as Lincoln Warehouse and continue to build out for the next few years as demand requires. Eventually, we will add as many as 40 new spaces,” Bandy said. Currently there are 60 tenants.

 “We will add our flavor,” Tom Gold said. “Paint, polish, make it look a little fresher. We take pride in our tenants, their energy and creativity. We will maintain the current economies,” Tom Gold said, “in terms of rent, to continue the venue’s appeal to the tenant base.” 

“We like to give them a place to do their thing,” Richard Gold added. 

“Rich and Tom are involved in the day to day, they’re not just investors,” said Bandy. “They take pride in what they do and they’re proud of the environments (they own).”

The Golds retained Ralph Barron who tenants regard as the heart and soul of the Hide House. He has provided maintenance services there since 2001. —Photo Katherine Keller

Regarded as the heart and soul of the Hide House by its tenants, the Golds retained Ralph Barron who has provided maintenance services in the complex since 2001. “We hired Ralph Barron because the tenants love him. He’s a great guy. Great smile. He knows the tenants and he knows the building,” Tom Gold said.

There were many challenges, Tom Gold said, including some environmental issues that needed to be remedied that prolonged the purchase process, stretching to a little more than three years.

“There was no contamination that was a danger to the tenants, but to close out a property with the DNR requires extensive documentation, committee approvals, and the like,” Strautmanis said.

Paul Grittner of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Division of Environmental Management, familiar with the remediation required at the Hide House, said the chief problem was contaminated soil surrounding the buildings, likely brought to the site in fill soil. Coal fired boilers once provided the buildings’ hot water heat and may also have contributed to the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) contamination. The remediation included capping an area behind one of the small buildings, adjacent to the main building, with a parking lot. Traces of hexavalent chromium were found in the basement of Building 2, on the west side of the complex. It was capped with a vinyl liner and gravel. 

First Federal Bank of Wisconsin, a Waukesha-based community bank, financed the purchase. 

“First Federal saw us as a community based project,” Tom Gold said, who praised its bankers Matthew Mancuso and David Rosenwald.

The Golds also shared their admiration for the seller. “You always hope for a deal partner like General Capital. They’re a class act. All were great to work with. Everyone was patient, generous, and good with each other,” said Tom Gold.

Reflecting on General Capital’s ownership decade, Strautmanis said, “I’m super proud that we were able to build on and improve the concept Gib Bathrick and his family started. We maintained a property that is truly unique to Milwaukee. For example, it is one of the only places where bands can rent space and rehearse. We kept that alive and cheap. I think that’s pretty cool. And I’m proud of Mary Abitz, our property manager, who dealt with the day-to-day operations. It took a lot of hand holding to keep tenants happy and living well together.”

When asked what he’d like to say to the Hide House tenants, he replied, “We’re really pleased to have found the right buyer for Hide House. One who intends to keep the spirit of the property intact and to promote the creative nature of the community. The fit could not have been better. For that, I’m grateful for a seamless hand off.”

General Capital retained four of its Hide House assets including the Hide House Lofts, apartments that it constructed in 2010, the lot that fronts the apartment building, and two more lots on Burrell St., one occupied by the Hide House Community Garden. —Photo Katherine Keller

The north end of the Hide House complex was demolished to make way for the
Hide House Lofts. —Photo Katherine Keller

General Capital retained four of its Hide House assets including the Hide House Lofts, apartments that it constructed in 2010, the lot that fronts the apartment building, and two more lots on Burrell St., one occupied by the Hide House Community Garden.

A number of factories have operated in the Hide House buildings since its first structure was built in the late 19th century. One manufactured metal bed frames and mattresses. Another was a tannery that made patent leather shoes and later, footwear for the U.S. military.

For more information about the history of the Hide House complex: bayviewcompass.com/the-hide-house-transformed-through-time/ and for a detailed history prepared by the Milwaukee Historic Preservation Commission: goo.gl/RTA8XJ

Disclosure: The Bay View Compass has been a Hide House tenant since 2008. Ten years ago the complex was virtually unknown, so much so that many visitors had difficulty finding it, in some cases, even long time Bay View residents. The Compass redubbed it The Hidden House. Today it is a far more common destination for those patronizing the photo, design, and artisan studios, gyms, salons, church, rehearsal space, etc., and it is highlighted on Google Maps.


Proponents of KK BID Termination Narrowly Prevail

July 30, 2018

By Katherine Keller

The Kinnickinnic Avenue Business Improvement District will be terminated. 

Those who led the effort to dissolve the KK BID succeeded by a margin of less than one percent. 

Owners of 117 of the 194 commercial properties in the district signed the petition to dissolve, although the number of petition signers is irrelevant in the termination process.

To terminate a BID, the value of the petition signers’ commercial property must be greater than 50 percent of the total value of all the commercial properties in the district.

The final tally was $22,434,112 out of the total property value of $44,392,414, or 50.54 percent. 

The lettering that once spelled “Bay View” on the south-facing wall of the Art Stop Bus Stop on Lincoln Avenue between Howell and Kinnickinnic avenues, was removed after vandals swiped three of the letters. The Kinnickinnic Avenue BID is waiting for contractor Kotze Construction to replace the lettering. Kotze built the Art Stop structure. The BID was responsible for landscape maintenance and for snow removal at Art Stop. It is not yet clear who will assume the maintenance role but Ald. Tony Zielinski said that he is considering numerous possibilities. One idea is finding an advertising company to maintain the site. —Photo Katherine Keller

Alderman Tony Zielinski, who persuaded property owners to establish the KK BID in 2009, failed in a last ditch effort to overturn the petition majority, even though earlier this year, when he learned of the effort to terminate the BID, he told the Compass he would support the will of the majority, whatever the outcome.

State statutes govern business improvement districts in Wisconsin. The statutes decree that after petition signatures are submitted to city officials, there must be a 30 day period to allow additional property owners to sign the petition or to withdraw their signatures.

Duffey and Brazeau redoubled their effort to gather more signatures to regain their majority. They succeeded, but waited to turn them in to city officials until an hour before the 30-day waiting period expired, not wishing to tip their hand to Zielinski.

After Zielinski discovered that Duffey and Brazeau had gathered sufficient petition signatures to terminate, he began talking with some of the signers, including Waqar Hussain, who owns the BP station, 2023 S. Kinnickinnic, and Amarjit Virk, who owns Siegel’s Liquor, 2632 S. Kinnickinnic. Their annual license applications are approved or denied by the Common Council’s Licenses Committee, which at the time, was chaired by Zielinski.

Both men are dependent on city licenses that permit them to operate their businesses. Both withdrew their signatures. When Tim Olson, who owns numerous commercial properties on Kinnickinnic Avenue, also withdrew, Duffey and Brazeau’s petition no longer represented a majority.

They redoubled their effort to gather more signatures to regain their majority. They succeeded, but waited to turn them in to city officials until an hour before the 30-day waiting period expired, not wishing to tip their hand to Zielinski.

Ken Little is the manager of the Commercial Corridor section of the City of Milwaukee Department of City Development. His team oversees the city’s business improvement district.

This year Kinnickinnic Avenue was not bedecked with hanging flower baskets, a project of the KK BID. When the viability of the BID came into question because of the petition drive to terminate it, BID president Lee Barczak canceled its order for the baskets. Bay View Neighborhood Association may take over the the project in the future. —Photo Jennifer Kresse

“We turned in seven more signatures to get more than 50 percent,” Brazeau said. “I turned the signatures in at around 3:50pm. Ken Little then advised Lee Barczak that he had until 5pm to turn in any retractions. I waited around until 5pm just to make sure no one came in, like Tony or Lee.” No one appeared.

Like Barczak, Zielinski was also informed that Brazeau and Duffey had a majority. He responded by phoning KK BID property owners, including Joyce Parker, who owns Alana Women’s Apparel and four buildings in the BID, and Ron Romero, who owns Ron and Russ’s Flooring & Design and four buildings in the district.

Duffey, Brazeau, and others who signed the petition were motivated by their opposition to a potential hike proposed by Barczak that would increase the special assessment property owners pay to fund the BID. Since its establishment, BID members had paid a one percent property tax surcharge, which was limited to not less than $100 and to no more than $1,000 per property

KK BID president Lee Barczak sided with Zielinski and hoped to salvage the organization. Apart from their effort, there was no apparent countermovement by the district’s property owners to preserve the BID.

Zielinski was optimistic that Barczak’s drive to recruit new board members would succeed and that they would bring to fruition aspects of Barczak’s vision for the district. 

In a letter Barczak wrote to the Compass and KK BID members in spring to defend the BID, Barczak said he wanted the BID to stage music performances in commercial spaces in the business district, akin to house concerts where musicians play to small audiences in private homes.

He wanted the new board members to consider sponsoring a parade to fill the gap created after the beloved South Shore Frolics Parade was discontinued several years ago. He also hoped the BID would sponsor events like the ToaD bicycle race that brings people to the district. 

In his letter, Barczak also spoke of the BID’s achievements such as new waste bins and flower baskets on Kinnickinnic, the BID’s website, and the murals painted on five buildings in the district.

Duffey, Brazeau, and others who opposed the KK BID fumed that there was virtually no participation by property and business owners and that in the past two years, its meetings were canceled more often than conducted because there were too few board members to form a voting quorum. They disputed a need for a BID.

“Bay View is already quite successful and the BID did not help in a significant way,” Duffey said. “We expected more—completing audits in a timely fashion, spending our money wisely, updating the operating plan (many things in the current plan reference 2010), and having board members that attend the meetings. There is a significant number of organizations that do a lot of work with volunteers, but this was not one of them.”

Barczak wanted the new board members to consider sponsoring a parade to fill the gap created after the beloved South Shore Frolics Parade was discontinued several years ago. He also hoped the BID would sponsor events like the ToaD bicycle race that brings people to the district.

Referencing the assessments collected and funneled to the BID since its establishment, Duffey said, “We did not get $450,000 worth of results from the BID. Of the few positive things that the BID accomplished, in particular the hanging flower baskets, those can still be accomplished by us working with the Bay View Neighborhood Association. I have already donated money to them and plan to in the future. I highly encourage other property owners to do that as well. Their list of accomplishments is quite impressive.”

“We are willing to take over the flower basket project,” said Patty Pritchard Thompson, Bay View Neighborhood Association president. “We helped to initiate the program, and would happily pick it up again.”

Winding down

The KK BID’s funds will be determined by an audit that the BID is required to provide to the city. After settling outstanding obligations, the remainder will be returned to property owners.

Kotze Construction is owed $15,124 for work performed to construct the Art Stop bus stop on Lincoln Avenue between Kinnickinnic and Howell. Rupert Kotze, company vice president, said that his company has not completed some of the contracted work, including installing skateboard stops to deter skaters from riding up Art Stop’s walls and replacing the lettering that spelled “Bay View” on the south-facing wall.

Kotze was circumspect in response to a Compass inquiry about the money it was owed stating he didn’t want get into an argument with the BID in the paper. “It is my hope that after we complete the list of items, installing the skateboard stops and lettering, that at that time (BID) money would be released.”

Months passed after the letter “e” was stolen from the south wall of the Art Stop bus stop in Bay View. Eventually two more letters were taken. —Photo Katherine Keller

Lee Barczak concurred. “There have been several meetings with the Kotze Construction firm and they have promised repeatedly to finish all the work of the Art Stop,” he said. “The lettering is one of several items that has not been completed. I asked as recently as two weeks ago what sort of timeline we could expect for this promised completion. I have no response. The monies that were withheld were done so in order to have some form of leverage for completion. The owner of the company is aware of and has agreed to us withholding these monies.”

“The people have spoken and the BID will be terminated,” Zielinski said.

The BID was officially terminated by vote of the full Common Council July 31.

The purpose of business improvement districts is to enhance commercial property values and to promote its businesses.

This report was updated to reflect the vote of the Common Council, July 31, to terminate the KK BID.


Five New Homes Will Gussy Up Corner at Aldrich and Bay

July 2, 2018

By Katherine Keller

This aerial view of Ryan Konicek’s Bay Point development on the southeast corner of Bay and Lenox streets shows the five condominiums that are scheduled for completion in October. Konicek also purchased the adjacent lot and concrete block building to house his construction and development businesses. The large parking lot to the south was recently renovated by Wrought Washer, who owns it. Courtesy Ryan Konicek

Construction of the Bay View Point condominium development is scheduled for completion in October.

The five single-family units, consisting of three single-standing units and a two-unit row house, are located on the southeast corner of Aldrich and Bay streets. Each is three stories with an attached two-car garage. 

Developer Scott Konicek (Ryan Scott Development) presold all five units, one for himself.

He purchased the parcel from Wrought Washer, originally intending to build a 45-unit apartment building. When District 14 Ald. Tony Zielinski opposed it, Konicek proposed five condos.

The site was rezoned from industrial to RT4, the city’s classification for two-family residential sites. The parcel is within the boundaries of the Harbor District and is on the southern border of Bay View’s old industrial corridor.

Fourteen people attended a public meeting concerning the condominium development prior to the development hearing before the City Plan Commission. Konicek said the majority supported the project.

“They are truly higher-end homes,” said Konicek. In addition to the amenities such as proximity to the dog park, restaurants, and bars, “it’s cool that the homes are close to the industrial district.” He said the views are good from the second and third floors.

The condos’ design is intended to reflect Milwaukee architecture and suit the neighborhood but with a modern cast. Each home has two bedrooms (with space on the first floor for another), a combination of 3 to 4 bathrooms/half baths, balconies, and a deck over the garage. The main living quarters are on the second and third floors.

Bay View Point North Elevation
Sections of the exterior will be sheathed in a 5-inch composite lap siding and contrasted with sections clad in 12-inch flush architectural metal panels.

Bay View Point
West Elevation
The new homes, 2104-2118 S. Aldrich St., face west. At the rear, each will have a deck on the roof of the attached two-car garage

Architect Robert Yuhas said the city of Milwaukee “required the design to take into consideration the existing neighborhood residential architecture.”

“We pulled from the local vernacular,” he said, “so there are gabled ends, steeply-pitched roofs, and steps that lead up to the entry.” 

Horizontal cables instead of vertical balusters are featured on the cedar-framed balcony railings. Sections of the exterior will be sheathed in a 5-inch composite lap siding and contrasted with sections clad in 12-inch flush architectural metal panels. Each unit possesses a unique sheathing pattern. Because Milwaukee’s building code requires two exists, an exterior spiral staircase drops from the third to the second story.

Konicek also purchased the 36,329 square-foot parcel with a garage/warehouse, directly east of the condominiums. He is renovating the former Wrought Washer building to house his construction and development company, including an addition for offices on the east facade.

Architect Russell Raposa said the addition will have an industrial design to tie into the architecture of the garage. City records indicate the 5,562 square-foot concrete block structure was built in 1957. 

Racine-native Konicek, 29, sought property to develop in Bay View for four years before acquiring the Wrought Washer parcels. Beginning at age 19, he and his brother purchased and renovated a number of homes in Bay View, then sold them. He also owns cabinet and millwork, metal fabrication, and construction companies.

Buy, Rehab, Sell

Beginning at age 19, Konicek and his brother purchased and renovated a number of homes in Bay View, then sold them. Here are six examples. To view before and after images, consult the Past Project section: ryanscottdevelopment.com. 

3446 S. Delaware Ave. —Katherine Keller

3324 S. New York Ave. —Katherine Keller

2941 S. Lenox St. —Katherine Keller

2355 S. Ohio Ave. —Katherine Keller

2351 S. Logan Ave. —Katherine Keller

323 E. Clarence St. —Katherine Keller


South Shore Farmers Market Celebrates 20 Years

July 2, 2018

By Sheila Julson

 

Members of the South Shore Farmers Market managing committee and support staff: Back, from left: Chad VanDierendonck, Mark Budnik, Jim Griffith, Tom Issetts, Kurt Mihelich, Stephanie Harling. Front: Ann Hippensteel, Angie Tornes, Mary Beth Driscoll, Brigid Globensky, Amy Mihelich, Sue Boyle. Not present: Kathy and Frank Mulvey. —Jennifer Kresse

The South Shore Farmers Market (SSFM) readily established itself as a neighborhood tradition when it was launched in 1998. A mecca of sights, sounds, tantalizing scents, people, and dogs, the market has frequently won or placed high in reader’s polls and received props in local food-related news articles.

Marking its 20th anniversary this year, this community mainstay serves as a springboard for local farmers and artisan food entrepreneurs and a showcase for musicians.

SSFM will celebrate its 20th anniversary July 14 with Big Brass Band, a New Orleans-style band that will perform from 10 to 11:30am. A big carrot sheet cake will also be served, said Angie Tornes, one of SSFM’s founders.

Stephanie Harling, SSFM committee member and former market manager, remembers the early years. “What the community probably didn’t know was that the inception of the market was filled with uncertainty about whether this would work in Bay View or not,” she reflected. “Our committee of about five or six residents anxiously waited at 7am in the park, just hopeful that the small amount of vendors that agreed to take this journey with us would actually show up.”

Wild Flour Bakery, owned by Dolly and Greg Mertens, has been a staple at the South Shore Farmers Market since its inception and was one of only six vendors at the first market, July 24, 1999. —Katherine Keller

The vendors kept their word and the market’s first day attracted about 200 shoppers. “We felt like that was a successful start. Little did we know it would grow to be one of the best markets in the city,” she said.

The uncertainty that clouded that first year wasn’t the only obstacle faced by the SSFM committee—they also had a very low budget. “We found ourselves rigging up a makeshift shelter on the rainy days,” Harling said. “We would have to string a tarp from tree to tree for the managers to use as shelter during inclement weather.”

Harling expressed optimism that the SSFM will continue to be a summertime community cornerstone. “It’s been amazing to be at the market every Saturday and see the families that come to the market grow each year, to see the babies from the early years grow up to be young adults as they hit all the expected milestones that life has to offer,” she said. “Hopefully they will carry fond memories of Saturday mornings in the park. I’m looking forward to the day when some of them take the torch from us and can experience what it is to create something that fosters community.”

Tornes recalled not only the apprehension of the market’s first day, but also the weather. “It was cold and wet and it rained that day and everyone had flimsy tents, and there were these big billowed pockets of water collecting on top of the tents. We had to push those off occasionally,” she said. 

Tornes has seen a generation of families grow, those of the shoppers and vendors. The Herren family, sweet corn, tomatoes, and melon growers, has been with SSFM since the beginning. “Mark Herren was only 13 when they started. Dolly Mertens, owner of Wild Flour Bakery, often looked out for him, when the rest of his family was at another market. “Mark has now turned into a robust young man and assists his dad,” she said.

Despite the founders’ initial uncertainty, the market grew year after year.

“We always keep count of the people attending, and at one point it just started
to explode,” Tornes said. “Previously, everyone recognized each other but at some point between the 10th and 15th year, we realized that something was going on. There was a huge influx of people coming in, and we didn’t recognize everyone right off the bat. We began informally asking people where they were coming in from, and we heard answers like Racine.”

The SSFM committee has since helped others communities form farmers markets, including Fox Point and Wauwatosa. “The community aspect of our farmers market is like a street festival every week,” Tornes said. She credited Sue Boyle, Stephanie Harling, Kathy Mulvey, Mary Beth Driscoll, Brigid Globensky, Michael O’Toole, Kurt Mihelich, treasurer Amy Mihelich, and the market managers for the SSFM’s success.

Bert Kelley and his wife Kellie Krawczyk have lived in Bay View for 20 years and shopped at the market since its beginnings.

Kelley fondly recalled the market’s early days. “It was small and lightly attended, and it was like our own little club,” he said, “and it took off so quickly!” He said it has grown into a great asset for the community.

His neighbor, Paula Kosinski, has also lived in Bay View with her husband Paul since the late 1990s and occasionally attended the market over the years. “It has changed dramatically since the beginning, but it’s cool to see some of the same vendors still there after all this time.” She grew up on a dairy farm in Montford, Wis., near the state’s Driftless Area, and enjoys connecting with farmers at the market. “It’s fun to walk around and talk with the diverse farmers selling meat and produce,” she said.

Chuck Doughty has lived in Bay View since 2006. He and his wife Jessica have attended to the SSFM almost every Saturday morning over the past 12 years. “It used to be just a few booths, but it has since expanded all the way across the park and has become a social gathering spot,” he said. “There’s a lot of prepared foods, and we’ll bring the kids and get a croissant, or something, and watch music. There’s entertainment, and we’re seeing everything from bluegrass to rock and roll to folk music and belly dancing. We meet family and friends there every Saturday morning.”

Doughty, a realtor, touts the SSFM as a great example of how wonderful Bay View is, to people thinking of moving here. “The market is a fabulous place to grab some groceries and meet your neighbors, their kids, and their dogs,” he said.

Jeanine Becker, owner of Madam J’s Sticky Fingers Jams and Jellies, is one of the original SSFM vendors. She fondly recalled the first season. “That’s when we were just putting up a table and seeing if we could get some people to come. There was no charge for a space, no formal structure to the market,” she said.

There are far more dogs than vendors at the South Shore Farmers Market held each summer from mid-June to mid-October in South Shore Park. Jen Leonard and Chewy, her 10-week-old Golden Doodle, came from Franklin, Wis., to visit the market. —Katherine Keller

As the market has grown, so has the market’s community. “One of the best parts for me is to see the same people year after year,” Becker said, “watching their kids grow up, young couples having their first child, and new dogs added to the family. The folks who come to the market become family.” 

Becker also believes the market’s growth and longevity reflect how people are more conscious of our food supply. She has observed that customers’ knowledge about what they want to eat, where they buy it, and what to feed their family has grown. “They are truly interested in where food comes from, and how it is handled and processed. They like to know the person that produces the product.”

When the market debuted, Mark Budnik, Angie Tornes’ spouse, was only marginally involved. “There wasn’t much thought about entertainment,” he recalled. “In 2002, the market only ran 12 weeks, first starting July 20th! Several committee members put together an entertainment and educational program. In 2003, the market purchased its own sound system and I got involved. As a former musician, I had some expertise, and I offered to assist the musicians with their set-up and sound.”  

He said the market expanded to 17 weeks in 2005. In 2007 Budnik became the entertainment coordinator, which included booking performers, maintaining and upgrading the sound system, managing promotion, setting up the performing area, and mixing the sound.

SSFM usually features a single performer or group. 

For a number of years he booked the same performers but broadened the selection beginning in 2009, while retaining John Stano and David HB Drake (“both Bay View guys”) in the annual lineup. He feels it’s beneficial to have new performers and a wide range of musical styles, with a few exceptions. He said the market isn’t an appropriate venue for rock bands, and out under the trees, they don’t have an adequate source of electrical power. 

“We run all the shows with 12-volt batteries and a power inverter. We sometimes stop the show, hopefully between songs, for about a minute, to switch batteries. It’s always amusing to the musicians and crowd.” Budnik said long-time Bay Viewer Jim Griffith, a master recording and sound engineer, as been real asset.

Griffith, who operated New Horizons sound studio in Milwaukee, is responsible for improving the sound quality with his expertise ranging from staging the microphones to mixing sound. “That makes everyone’s experience better, the musicians’ and the audience’s,” Budnik said. “He has added to the quality of the music.”

Griffith recorded the music and mixed sound for the SSFM music CD that was published in 2013.

Musician Paul Cebar performed at the June 23 South Shore Farmers market, while his father Anthony Cebar, 95, danced with Jonnie Guernsey. —Photo Katherine Keller

“I take pride in the fact that many market performers contact me year after year wanting to return,” Budnik said. “As the market crowds have steadily grown over the years, so have the regulars who come to shop, picnic, and be entertained. Some say the music is a big part of the South Shore Farmers Market, and of their summer Saturday mornings. My only goal is to present the best quality music I can with what I have. Walking among a smiling crowd on Saturday morning is the reward for me.”  

Husband and wife John Stano and Mary Cebar-Stano. Musician Stano will make his 13th appearance at the South Shore Farmers Market this summer. Cebar-Stano, a retired elementary teacher, is Paul Cebar’s sister. —Katherine Keller

Singer and songwriter John Stano has many market memories, as both a shopper and long-time performer at the SSFM. “The first South Shore Farmers Market, our son, Tony, was stroller-bound and was captivated by the market sights, sounds, and flavors. Not long after, he was enjoying spending his own money to buy small amounts of random vegetables. Sometimes he’d get paid in produce for running errands for the vendors like Dolly, Leroy, or the ‘Potato Lady,’” he said. “Then it was time for [our] Iron-Chef-home-version to figure out how to use garlic scapes, bitter melon, seven potatoes, or whatever. Tony made good friends, learned a lot about handling money, produce, and cooking, thanks to the market.” 

Stano noted that his scheduled market performance on Oct. 6 would be his “lucky 13.” He has performed more than any other musician to date. “I am surprised and honored. Playing for my family, friends, neighbors, and their dancing children at the South Shore Farmers Market has always been a memorable highlight of my summer.” Beatles tunes, he said, are what really get the little ones dancing.


She’s Unpaved Parking Lots, Planted a Paradise

July 2, 2018

By Sheila Julson

 

Christine Goldsworthy began gardening as a teenager while living “up north” in Florence, Wis., where she was surrounded by forest and the outdoors. She studied archeology and art at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. —Jennifer Kresse

How would Mother Nature do it? That is a question that Outpost Natural Foods employee and gardener Christine Goldsworthy often asks herself when considering garden design for three of Outpost’s four locations.

Goldsworthy, an employee at Outpost’s State Street location for 25 years, has been designing, planting, and maintaining the gardens at the stores, beginning with the State Street store in Wauwatosa, for close to 18 years. After her garden design was completed there, Outpost asked her to come up with a plan for the Capitol Drive location, and then for the Bay View store after it opened in 2005. She occasionally gardens at Outpost’s Mequon store, but due to its large rain garden and edible landscape, a landscape architect is primarily in charge of garden design and maintenance there.

Shoppers heading into the Bay View Outpost, 2826 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., see eye-catching yellow and purple irises and milkweed standing tall near hostas, purple Veronica, columbine, and dainty yellow creeping buttercup. Prairie fire and white crabapple trees shade lady’s mantle, salvia, and primrose. 

Sea holly

Near the entrance, eryngium, or sea holly, turns steely blue toward the end of June. “It’s in the rattlesnake master family and native to the Midwest,” Goldsworthy said. “It gets attention because it’s so unique.” When it is in bloom, she leaves information cards about it at the customer service desks because of the number of people who inquire about it.

She groups sage, chives, and winter savory, but food safety regulations prohibit their use by the store’s café. A large rose bush fans out on the wall near the outdoor seating area and there are three pear trees at the south end of the lot. The north end garden includes a monarch butterfly garden. In an island near the front doors, there is a path between the trees and plants. “That path was intentional,” Goldsworthy said. “I wanted to bring people to another spot.” She created a microhabitat where customers are momentarily encompassed by trees and flowers. She is gratified that the path is well traveled.

The pear trees were planted to honor Pam Menhert, Outpost’s longtime general manager.

Margaret Bert Mittelstadt, Outpost’s community relations director, said the pear tree was chosen because it is held in high regard in many cultures and religions and is said to represent salvation, comfort, and affection. The pear symbolizes abundance, the Christian cross, longevity, is associated with the Virgin Mary, and was sacred to Hera, queen of the heavens and Venus, goddess of love. “Pear trees used to be planted in celebration at the birth of girl babies,” she said. “If you saw a pear tree in your dreams, it meant new opportunities.”

An island near the entry to the store is like a mini park. Christine Goldsworthy created a microhabitat where customers are momentarily encompassed by trees and flowers when they travel the path through it. —Katherine Keller

A knack for gardening

Goldsworthy started gardening as a teenager while living “up north,” in Florence, Wis., near the Michigan border. “My sisters and I were surrounded by the woods and the outdoor world,” Goldsworthy said.

She moved to Milwaukee when she was 19 to attend the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she studied archeology and art. She lived on the East Side during the 1980s and was inspired by a neighborhood movement called Wild Ones, which promoted replacing monoculture grass lawns with native plants.

Goldsworthy’s art studies have influenced her gardening style. “I really like groundcovers because of the textures and different variations. Flowers are gorgeous when they’re blooming, and they stand out, but they are so short-lived,” she said. “Groundcovers allow you to work low and add other higher stuff, working in different shapes and spaces, just like a painting or a sculpture.” She also likes incorporating groundcovers because they help keep weeds down.

Planning and maintaining

The gardening duties take up most of Goldsworthy’s work tasks during the spring and summer months. During winter, she works in various store departments at the State Street location. 

But during the gardening season, she primarily is responsible for all planting, weeding, and watering duties herself.

While establishing the State Street garden, trees and bushes were purchased, but most of the perennials came from Goldsworthy’s and others’ yards. The cactus and the yellow and light purple irises all came from coworkers’ yards,” she said. She also went to friends’ homes and dug up perennials. She brought wild daisies and groundcovers, such as Artemisia and wormwood, from her visits to Northern Wisconsin.

“I think there’s a lot of similarity of the plants at all the locations because as a garden grows, I dig up plants from one location and take them to another, so there’s no cost involved. I’m not buying any plants,” she said. “It’s interesting for me to go back and recollect where a lot of things came from. It’s a really nice way that gardens are built, by people sharing.”

Sometimes people approach Goldsworthy to talk about gardening, and she’s always open to sharing her knowledge. One tip she offers is to just do it. “And don’t take it personally if things don’t survive,” she added. “There are so many things that could go wrong, but the more you learn, (the more) you start noticing things like relationships between different insects, and the weather, and you become like that farmer who can taste and feel the soil. It takes a lot of time. But often when things don’t work out, there’s something else going on—it’s not just you!”

Goldsworthy has faced challenges designing and maintaining gardens that are primarily in or around parking lots. The winter snow and salt from the parking lot kill some plants. People occasionally let their cars idle, and heat from engines will harm the plants. “People walk on things,” she said. “Or people pull right up until they bump the curb and hit stuff.”

Limited soil depth in the areas around parking lots can also prevent plants from growing to their full stature. Goldsworthy said she will cut back some plants in fall, but she keeps certain things for winter wildlife. “It’s a selective process of what you choose to leave. Mother Nature doesn’t go in there and rake and remove stuff, so you balance everything to work with nature,” she said.

Daisies, irises, and Dusty Miller grace the entryway to Outpost in Wauwatosa at 70th and State streets. —Katherine Keller

A few years ago, there were ducks nesting at the State Street store. Goldsworthy has also seen bunnies. 

“A couple summers ago while I was working at State Street, a man who lives nearby approached me, and he wanted me to know that he had beehives. He said he “made sure the bees always came down to the store gardens,” Goldsworthy said, explaining that he thought he recognized his bees. “It was rewarding to hear that.” 

For Goldsworthy it’s not just about pretty flowers. It’s also learning about the interconnectivity of plants and soil and climate and the variables that often change from year to year. She is still learning “how things in the garden play out.” Why, for example, are there so many aphids one year but not another? What can she plant to attract the aphids to draw them away from an infested plant that she wants to protect? 

Goldsworthy delights in the creativity involved with gardening and seeing the plants grow and develop. “It’s hard when a favorite plant doesn’t make it through the winter,” she said, “but being outside and noticing these relationships, I’m always learning and adding things to the puzzle.”

In 2003, the State Street store was bestowed with the Mayor of Wauwatosa Beautification Award. Goldsworthy worked with the Wehr Nature Center to create a landscape that qualified and received its Native Habitat Certification. She also worked with Monarch Watch, a program of the Entomology Department of the University of Kansas, to provide milkweed plants, nectar sources, and shelter to sustain migrating Monarch butterflies. The Bay View garden is certified and registered by the organization as a Monarch Waystation.

Outpost Natural Foods, 2826 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., in Bay View, 2004, soon after it purchased the former Kohl’s store, and before Christine Goldsworthy worked her landscaping magic. Courtesy Outpost Natural Foods

Outpost Natural Foods, 2826 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., 2018. —Katherine Keller


SPOTTLIGHT — Downsizing

May 2, 2018

By Toni Spott

Toni Spott

Not only is it extremely stressful to either sell your home or buy a new one, but, oh yeah, you still have to pack and move everything, usually in a 30-day timeframe. Yes, that would be years of accumulation where you now need to decide what to keep and what to get rid of…in 30 days. Oh, the pain of the decision-making! Ugh! 

We’re not just talking material objects; we’re talking emotional baggage, as well. You have a few years, perhaps decades of history in your home, and now you need to part with it. You can sell or give away your extraneous stuff but the memories, that’s a different story. So much of what you have has a memory or two attached to it. You will need to file that away and then let go of the object. That takes time.

The key is to have someone with you who has no emotional ties to any of your stuff and who can help you make decisions and keep you on task. This could be a friend or a professional mover. Take photos of the items you are getting rid of, but have emotional ties to, so that you have something to hold on to. 

Like I advised in a previous column, make three piles. One: Keep, Two: For Charity, Three: To Be Tossed. Pretty simple. If you stick to this plan, your sorting and discarding will be so much less stressful. The hard part is sticking to it.

Selling your stuff can be time-consuming and challenging. Having a garage sale is a lot of work that can result in not a lot of money. Everyone else is doing the same thing these days—trying to getting rid of their stuff. No one wants any of our stuff anymore, especially our kids! Instead, put some of it in a consignment shop so someone else does the work for you and then you at least get something for the item, so it’s not a complete loss. Online places like eBay, like rummage sales, are time consuming and there is an upfront fee. Listing items and then shipping requires a lot of time, which you don’t have. And then there are the scammers. It isn’t common, but it happens.

My suggestion is to donate, donate, and donate! You can write if off and others benefit. 

Now when it comes to toxic items like paint and chemicals, be sure to research where you can drop it off materials like these so they don’t find their way to the landfill. In Milwaukee, start with the Project Clean & Green page on the Department of Public Works website.

You can do this! I believe in you! 

Here are some sites that you may find helpful:

HGTV: Should I Downsize My Home?
goo.gl/JMEG1k

Dave Ramsey: Downsizing Your Home, 3 Money Benefits
goo.gl/9P9Lwq

Kiplinger: The Upside of Downsizing
goo.gl/CMCYB9

Money Crashers: Nine Ways to Declutter & Downsize Your Home Effectively
goo.gl/dyN966

City of Milwaukee Project Clean & Green
https://goo.gl/egRbfn


SPOTTLIGHT —What To Do When Mortgage Rates Begin Moving Up

April 2, 2018

By Toni Spott

Toni Spott

Rates are increasing and they will continue to increase as the year progresses.

Yes, they are going up, but the sky is not falling.

The economy has nearly made a full recovery in the past ten years since the Great Recession took its toll on the housing market.

What generally happens when rates rise is that there is less of a demand for housing, which triggers a downward trend in the price of homes.

But that’s not happening now. In the current housing market, supply is short and it has been for quite a while. Additionally, due to the historically low rates over the past decade, the new mortgage rate increases have not affected the price of housing. In fact, prices are still going up, along with demand. Sellers are not being negatively affected.

Who do the rate increases affect?

They will affect everyone who wants to own a home, however, it will be a double hit for the first time homebuyer. Just a quarter percent increase will make a huge difference in the monthly payment, relative to the amount of the down payment. So with that larger payment, first-time homebuyers will have less buying power as mortgage rates increase. They now may have to set their sights on a lower-priced home.

For those who want to sell their home and purchase another, they will now have a higher interest rate, as well. Their home-buying power will be affected just as it will be for first-time buyers. Odds are they currently have a mortgage with a 3 to 4 percent interest rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage. Yet rates continue to be historically low. So all things considered, it is still a good time to lock in on a rate, even though the new rates will be taken with a grain of salt.

Inflation is another reason rates go up. When the economy is good, workers are getting raises, etc., and that can stimulate an increase in consumer prices.

Things could be far worse. It could be 1981 when a mortgage could come with an 18 percent interest rate. So look at the current rate increases as a wake up call. If you haven’t refinanced recently, now is the time to do it, and if you are thinking about buying a new home, now’s the time to do it.

According to the website Mortgage Reports, in the middle of the 2007 economic boom, 30-year rates climbed close to 6.75 percent. During the 1999 boom, rates crept higher than 8 percent.

Mortgage Reports observes that mortgage rates could rise to 5 percent in 2018, if the current economic expansion continues.

Hoping for all the best for all of you.

Toni Spott Sustainable Agent, Keller Williams Realty;
414-788-4255; tspott@kw.com
TheToniSpottTeam.com;
Facebook: TheToniSpottTeam;
@ToniSpott


Longtime Retail Tenant John’s Appliance Booted From Bay Plaza Building

April 2, 2018

By Sheila Julson

John Steffen grew up in the appliance business. His father Gene Steffen began selling home appliances in 1967. —Photo Jennifer Kresse

After the Bay Plaza Apartments, a retail and apartment building changed ownership in 2016, long-time retail tenants such as Cousins Subs and John’s Appliance Service & Sales relocated. The building is located at 2863-2867 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.

Anthony Brzezinski, doing business as 2867 S. KK, LLC, owned the building from 1984 until 2016, when he said he sold it to Enigma Properties. When reached at his home in the Stevens Point, Wis. area, Brzezinski expressed surprise that John’s Appliance and Cousins Subs were no longer tenants. “I told the new owner that John’s Appliance is very useful to the building,” Brzezinski said. “All we had to do was go downstairs and he would come and repair all of the appliances. We also bought appliances from him.”

From 1989 through June 2017, John Steffen, owner of John’s Appliance Service & Sales, repaired, refurbished, and sold dishwashers, washing machines, dryers, ovens, ranges, refrigerators, and parts, from the basement at the north end of the Bay Plaza Apartment building. He still operates the business but from an office in his home in St. Francis. No longer selling appliances and parts, he trimmed his business, limiting it to appliance repair services.

Steffen grew up in the appliance business. His father Gene Steffen began selling home appliances in 1967. He owned Gene’s Hide-A-Way Appliance & TV Store in West Allis.

Steffen said he received a notice around mid-May 2017 that he was to vacate his space on the Bay Plaza premises within 45 days. “The new owner didn’t even talk to us,” Steffen said. “He had his lawyer send a notice that we had to be out. We were overwhelmed trying to get rid of everything.” Steffen said he was not given a reason why he had to leave.

Eric Higgins of Enigma Properties confirmed that Enigma owns the building, but he refused to comment about the ousting of either John’s Appliance or Cousins or Enigma’s plans for the ground story storefront units. There are currently “For Lease” signs in the windows of the storefront units.

Steffen said he donated much of his showroom appliance inventory to Habitat for Humanity and scrapped the remainder. “[Habitat] was happy to get the stuff,” said Steffen. “We told them we were in a crunch to get out and they came with a crew and some trucks to load the stuff out,” he said.

Jodee Benavides, in-kind donations manager for Habitat for Humanity, said that the organization received about two truckloads of appliances, or about 150 pieces, including washers, dryers, refrigerators, and ranges. Habitat for Humanity procures donations of furniture, appliances, and cabinetry that it sells at a discount to the general public in its ReStore locations. All proceeds support Habitat for Humanity’s mission to build simple, decent, affordable housing, in partnership with people in need. Benavides said most of the appliances donated by John’s Appliance sold quickly.

Steffen said that despite his efforts to clear out his inventory, some appliances and parts were left behind. “We worked until midnight of the very last day that we had to be out of there,” Steffen said. He closed permanently at the end of June 2017. He posted a notice that John’s Appliance alerted would-be appliance customers that, “As of June 30, 2017, John’s Appliance Service will only be doing in home service, we will not be selling appliances.”

Although John’s Appliance is still operating, the biggest and most difficult aspect of the downsizing was that he let go four employees. “As soon as I found out (that we had to leave), I let them know what was going on so they’d have time to find other opportunities. I also let them take whatever appliances they wanted,” Steffen said. “Some people stayed until the very end. I had good employees.”

Steffen now employs two technicians and an office assistant who helps with scheduling. His son, Peter Steffen, also works for him.

“We loved that location,” Steffen said. “Bay View was always great to us. The year when we first moved in, we set up a trailer during the [South Shore Frolic] parade and gave away hot dogs and chips to the kids and the people who were there. I just loved the neighborhood.”

He also praised Brzezinski, as well as the Patel family who owned the Cousins Subs franchise, his former neighbors in the building. Steffen had no intentions of moving from the Kinnickinnic Avenue space, and he expressed concern that other long-running family businesses might also be driven out of Bay View due to more development or rapidly rising rents. “There are lots of great people in Bay View, and people came by and said they were sorry to see us move out of the area,” Steffen said.

The Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions lists Patel of Jog Maya, LLC as registered agents of the former Cousins Subs at 2967 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. Attempts to locate or contact Patel for comment were unsuccessful.

Chelsea Schwabe, PR and Communications Manager for Cousins Subs said, “For the last 40 years, Cousins Subs has had the joy of serving the Bay View community. As with all lease renewals, terms and conditions are carefully evaluated to ensure they remain mutually beneficial for all parties involved, and ultimately the vision for the space did not align. Cousins Subs is continuing work on its downtown development strategy to better serve its guests from Bay View to the business district.”


Lee Barczak Response To Effort To Dissolve Kinnickinnic Avenue BID#44

April 2, 2018

March 22, 2018

The Kinnickinnic Business Improvement District (BID) #44 has been the center of much recent attention. As current president of the BID board, I feel it’s important to address the grievances focused on BID property assessments, and provide the BID board’s point of view. My wife and I own buildings within the BID district and operate The Avalon Theater and the restaurant Mistral. We oppose this move to end the BID and hope you will agree after reading this. If you have already signed the petition calling for the BID to end, please consider removing your name, if what you read here inspires a change of heart.

The KK BID was formed in 2009 under the leadership of District 14 Alderman Tony Zielinski and commercial building and business owners, who saw the wisdom of creating an entity to promote value growth in the district’s business and commercial buildings. The original board worked to unify the commercial area of the BID. Uniform garbage and recycling bins were installed using a newly created logo that helped to identify the area. Planters and flower baskets were hung on the street to increase greenery. The BID took over maintenance of the Art Stop bus stop not long after its construction.

Through the first five years of the BID’s existence, many plans were considered but several issues prevented their fruition. As board membership changed, some potential projects were discarded and others under review did not gain enough momentum to be adopted. Over time, the KK BID and its board were perceived as less effective and board meeting attendance dropped.

In 2014 I was approached by Ald. Zielinski, who asked me to occupy an empty seat on the board. After being approved, I worked to understand what purpose this board had and why parts of the community viewed it as not accomplishing enough. In the course of this investigation, the board asked me to take on the role of board president. I’m pleased to say that during my duration on the board the number of people involved in KK BID activities greatly increased.

While the struggle continues to keep the board populated with motivated members, we’ve had a great group of passionate individuals who have worked hard to review ideas and accomplish those ideas that were approved.

In the past three years, the board has ranged from a high of seven members, the maximum number per our bylaws, to the current low of three members. Since this is a volunteer board, it has been and continues to be a bit difficult to seat volunteers who are willing to put in the hours needed. Anyone who has done this or served on volunteer committees knows that many of those who apply are solely looking to bolster their resumes. Or they are only willing to make decisions but not perform the work needed to enact them. The last thing any entity like this needs are such members or people who have a tendency to undermine what others do to improve an area like Bay View.

An important point I would like to argue is that this board has embraced that commercial building owners within the BID boundaries are the constituents of the board. Our mission is to help increase the value of commercial property in the BID by doing whatever is possible to bring patrons to the businesses that occupy these properties. It is also our mission to attract good development to the BID and to help businesses get events that enhance the experience of doing business within the BID for patrons, workers, and owners.

Currently, seven different building and business owners have verbally agreed that they, or a company representative, will sit on the board. Two of these have submitted the required information and applications, and we hope to have a complete board again within a few months.

While the attitude of the new board cannot be assumed, I hope anyone reading this letter will understand that many of the following are proposals from myself and other board members, some of whom have since ended their terms. Thus, these ideas have not yet become real initiatives of the KK BID.

The Tour of America’s Dairyland (ToAD) bike race has taken place in Bay View for the last three years in the area of KK and Lincoln. The BID committed to this race contingent on its ability is able to raise donation commitments of at least $18,000 by March 1, 2018. We have received commitments totaling $14,000 to date from Café Centraal, the main event-sponsor for the fourth year, Colectivo, and the Avalon. We are actively seeking donations for the balance of the projected $27,000 budget. This event is growing in size and in popularity with attendees, racers, and businesses. Several businesses in the area have stated this has become their biggest single revenue day of the year. We hope to gather more information from businesses within and close to the racing area about the business they do on the day of the race, if the race prevented them from operating their business, or if the race brought new business/customers.

Last year, several businesses did not submit the funds they’d pledged and as a result the KK BID lost $7,000. This was the first time a loss occurred, and that was certainly not the result of board members not procuring pledges nor of poor attendance at the event. I assure you the KK BID board is doing everything possible to see that events like this race, which are actually used as fundraisers for other organizations, will at least break even in the future.

The KK BID board has recently discussed the wisdom of expanding the number of events sponsored or overseen by the board. We have also heard repeatedly that too much of the BID’s focus has been centered on the KK/Lincoln/Howell hub. BID constituents to the south have often expressed the feeling they are left out. While the board and its Streetscape Committee have tried to address this by including the entire district with flower baskets, tree planting, banner, and mural projects, I state here that that is not enough. If the bike race is an event that has helped, perhaps there are other events that could do more for the rest of the BID.

One suggested event is a Music on KK Weekend. The idea here is to schedule a large number of musicians to entertain in venues up and down the BID district. A key element of this weekend would be that most of these performances would occur in venues other than the expected bar or restaurant. We would like to see them perform in salons, grocery stores, gift shops, and auto shops, as well as more traditional venues. If this is well planned and promoted by the BID, it could result in a weekend of great business, public relations, and publicity for participating businesses and musicians, which will bring new people to the area and will help increase the momentum this area is known for.

The next event for consideration is the parade once held on the weekend of the South Shore Frolics. This parade was very popular in Bay View and was held on KK for many years. More recently, the parade was canceled several times due to an inability to find major sponsors and the difficulty of finding enough volunteers to carry off a major, one-day event. Discussions about this parade have led to ideas that would revive and change the parade. One idea is to hold it apart from the Frolics weekend. Another is to hire an event company to plan and execute the parade. The final idea is to have the parade at night and make it a “Parade of Lights.”

All of these and the many ideas and details that accompany them are in the infancy stages. However, if done correctly and staged on KK from the south end of the district at Morgan Avenue and to the north, the BID board feels it could add something just as exciting as the ToAD bike race to our district.

Events like these have the ability to bring substantial revenue to a community. This revenue benefits businesses and their employees in obvious ways. However, they also benefit building owners indirectly. The more business a commercial district does, the more area businesses will prosper. Other businesses will then want to locate in the area as word of a profitable atmosphere spreads. This means rents will increase as popularity builds. While building owners wish to profit just as the businesses that occupy their buildings do, increased revenue provides the building owners with the ability to properly maintain their buildings and to make often much needed improvements.

When the Faust building sold and a new development was proposed, many people in Bay View spoke out against destroying what they believed was a building worth restoring. The reality was that the Faust buildings had been neglected for so long, that there was no way to restore them that made economic sense. I don’t say this to be negative about the previous owner, and acknowledge I do not know their situation. My point is, had rents increased enough over time, perhaps the building would have been worth preserving.

There are buildings in our BID district right now that are only marginally maintained. While it is the right of every building owner to decide how to spend their rental revenue, any good landlord knows growth in value requires good maintenance and periodic improvement. Events like the ToAD race and our other proposals are ways to help owners create value today and tomorrow.

The KK Bid board feels the region would benefit from marketing the area in a more organized and consistent fashion for it would benefit all the businesses in the BID boundaries, as well as most in other areas of Bay View.

Every time there is an event or when I speak to businesses after events like Gallery Night or the ToAD race, I hear stories of how people tell them they never knew Bay View was so much fun or had so much to offer. This may be hard for those of us with a vested interest in Bay View to believe, but don’t for one moment think it’s not true. No shopping area or business will succeed in the long run without constant marketing. Doubt that statement? My one word answer—McDonald’s.

The KK BID has made a few attempts to market and promote Bay View but has not yet been successful. The original website was little trafficked by the public and was too expensive to maintain in its original design. A temporary one was created but remains only a band-aid on this area of need. While no one wants to see money spent foolishly, many opportunities exist, within the structure of the many offerings of the advertising community, to create brand and business recognition. What’s needed for the area is a well thought out marketing campaign, which would provide benefit to the businesses in our commercial district. Naturally, each business has its own opinion on what marketing would most benefit them, so a variety of options must be available.

The final event that is being considered is probably the most controversial. The South Shore Frolics has been an event that has fostered a “love it or hate it” response from the residents and businesses in the KK BID district and other areas of Bay View. There have been many meetings and endless online discussions about the Frolics. Like many events run by volunteers, it eventually shifted from being run by a coalition of Bay View institutions, to one being run by a single group, the Bay View Lions Club, as a fundraiser for the good works they sponsor. The Lions have had varying levels of success and as previously noted, had to eliminate the parade. While it has evolved a great deal over the years and does not resemble the Frolics during my high school years, 1965-1969, it still has the fireworks and attracts a large number of attendees.

Due to the controversy surrounding one aspect of the fireworks, there has been a lot of discussion about the future of the Frolics. The KK BID’s Visioning Committee had discussions on whether the BID could offer to operate the Frolics, making it more like the Frolics of the past. The idea was for it to be a more community-centered event that would provide Bay View businesses a chance to showcase their offerings, while keeping the fireworks and bringing back some of the old Frolics events like the Venetian Boat Parade on the water.

Other suggestions would be to offer different types of music, including a high school jazz band competition. The committee member believe the weekend should include activities from community groups like the Bay View Neighborhood Association, Bay View Garden Society, or the Bay View Historical Society, any that might be interested in being involved, if the event changed its direction. Whatever the nature of a different Frolics, the primary idea would be to make it an event centered on Bay View that would provide a showcase for its businesses, institutions, and for the enjoyment of its residents.

All of this leads me to the next issue: money. A business improvement district is funded by additional taxes placed on its commercial property owners for specific expenditures on board approved activities.

The original BID 44 board approved an assessment for all commercial and mixed-use properties in the district and that has not been changed since inception nine years ago. It is important to note that the assessment was one of the lowest of the 32 BIDs in Milwaukee. The KK BID 2018 assessment will generate $44,392 in 2018.

Recent state legislation has changed the way such assessments calculated for commercial- and residential-use buildings. While the commercial value was once used to determine the assessment, the formula has changed. Beginning in 2018, the ratio of the amount of commercial square footage to the entire building’s square footage determines what percentage of the current BID assessment the building will pay. For example, a building with 50 percent commercial and 50 percent residential with an assessed value of $300.00 will now pay 50 percent of that, or $150. This has resulted in a decrease for KK BID of $10,000, which now places the BID in eighth place in Milwaukee, in terms of revenue available for BID projects and maintenance.

In order to make up for this lost revenue, the KK BID board has discussed increasing the assessment for the BID tax. There’s never even been an inflationary increase in the nine years of the BID’s existence. This has resulted in a loss of buying power and an increased immobility for the BID to commit to any projects of substantial improvements.

Some of you may be aware that at one on the 2017 board meetings, I brought to the table the idea of such an increase. I used the number a 500 percent increase, as an example, and this was discussed by the board. They decided the board should consider a plan about how such monies would be spent before putting any increase into effect. At this time, no increase of any kind has been approved. Contrary to recent mailings you may have received, the example of a 500 percent increase has not been approved or even set for future consideration.

When the assessment increase was discussed, one meeting attendee stated, “If you could not spend these monies, why do you need an assessment increase?” I explained that most of the ideas the money would be spent on had a lot to do with enhancing parts of KK that would have little or no benefit to building or business owners. Therefore, the board did not approve spending these funds. I feel this is an excellent example of how this board has acted in the best interests of the building owners who pay these assessments.

Another funding issue concerns an agreement approved several years ago whereby the KK BID might accept a $175,000 grant from the city of Milwaukee. The stipulation of the grand is that if the loan is accepted, the BID board must also accept a loan of the same amount. Only one member of the board, who approved the agreement at that time, remains on the current board. That board member explained that their approval came from the attractiveness of the grant and low interest loan. This money may “only” be spent for streetscaping types of projects. The status of this money remained in limbo for more than two years due to city budget issues, as well as the drafting of the agreement. This grant-and-loan has been another controversial issue because loan repayment term is 20 years and it cannot be paid off early. That would lock the BID into a 20-year existence, until the loan is repaid.

There are currently more than $50,000 of streetscape improvements that could be reimbursed by these grant/loan funds. This board has repeatedly refrained from accepting the grant/loan because it was unsure of the wisdom of creating a 20-year lock on KK BID’s existence. Once again this shows board members’ concern for the BID constituency.

So, now the KK BID finds itself in a state of rebuilding the board while facing a dissolution movement by some of BID property owners. Various reasons for their efforts to dissolve exist, but none of the important questions are being addressed by this appeal to save some tax dollars. The most important question is whether or not a BID for Kinnickinnic Avenue in Bay View is good. Many property owners thought so when it was created, myself included. Business improvement districts are found all over the city of Milwaukee and in many parts of the country. If they have done so much for commerce all over our nation, how can it be a bad idea for KK and, by osmosis, Bay View? I believe it would be a great mistake to follow the few who think saving these monies are more important than working to keep progress in the BID from going forward.

Two more questions may be whether or not we have been an effective board and I an effective president. While I’m sure we could have done more and been better organized, I assure you every board member, as well as the 27 members of the committees, spent a great deal of time and energy working on projects on behalf of a better KK business district. These people have volunteered with no compensation for their efforts beyond thank yous and criticism. I feel they have done an excellent job and many city and neighborhood observers have commented on the increased activity of the KK BID.

So what happens if this movement is successful and the BID is dissolved? Well, I’ll save about $1,300 in taxes a year. Like any building and business owner, I will, of course, find somewhere else to channel this extra cash flow. However, I’ll be saddened at the thought of all the hard-working, thoughtful, creative building and business owners who got on a bandwagon saying we can’t get anything done to be more exciting on KK, saying we can’t create or copy great ideas to enhance business in our BID, and saying, where in so many parts of life, the many are stronger together than the disparate few, that is not the case here.

I pray that’s not what we’re saying. I hope this BID will not dissolve. I hope those who believe we can create more together than apart for the community and businesses we love will become active. I hope that if you have signed this ill-conceived petition, you will contact the organizers and tell them to remove your name.

Sincerely,
Lee Barczak
KK BID, Board President


Campaign to Dissolve KK Avenue BID Update

March 1, 2018

By Katherine Keller

As the Compass reported last month, Bay View property owners Ada Duffey and David Brazeau are leading an effort to dissolve the Kinnickinnic Avenue Business Improvement District #44.

To dissolve the BID, Duffey and Brazeau must collect the signatures of owners in the BID whose property values equal more than 50 percent of the total value of the properties in the KK Avenue BID. The current total assessment for the 194 properties equals $73,210,000. Duffey needs signatures by owners whose building assessments equal $37,337,100. By the end of January, she said she had collected “$9,049,600 worth of signatures and (had) verbal/written commitments for an additional $7,630,900,” a total of $16,680,500.”

In the four weeks since, Brazeau and Duffey have continued to gather petition signatures. “We’re right around 32% of the total bid assessment, so 64% of what we need,” Duffey said, “We’re getting one to two signatures every day. Many people are very supportive of signing the petition. I do think we will get sufficient signatures. It is just a matter of contacting people, informing them, and getting their signatures.”

“Yes, we will get enough signatures. We are getting signed petition forms back almost every day,” David Brazeau said. “Once they hear about the BID’s proposal of raising the assessment rate by 500 percent, it is a no brainer. Everyone that I have met is thanking us for doing this, as they see absolutely no value in the BID. As of today, we have 70 commercial property owners that have signed the petition to eliminate the BID, with a total value of $25.6 million.”

A Business Improvement District (BID) is an economic development tool used to help maximize business growth along a major business strip. BIDs are areas where property owners in designated geographic areas agree to percentage-based additional annual property assessment. Those assessments form a BID’s annual budget and funds are spent on projects that enhance the local business environment. Those may include improvements to the streetscape, marketing efforts, business recruitment activity, and security programs.

A change in the assessment scheme for Milwaukee-based BIDs reduces the amount of taxes that BIDs can collect. As reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the new Wisconsin budget stipulates that only the commercial, not residential portions of mixed-use buildings can be taxed.

KK BID president Lee Barczak said that KK BID’s budget is already one of the smallest in Milwaukee and is one of the reasons he wants to consider raising the assessment in Bay View. He said the BID’s annual budget would be reduced by 20 percent as a result of the reduced assessments, and noted that there has never been a cost-of-living increase in the assessments since the BID started in 2009.


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