Developer revises Dover Street School plans

January 31, 2014

By Katherine Keller

Dover Site Plan Version 1

Version 2 of Dover Site Plan. The building that was slated for Dover St. has been removed and in its place there is open land for a play space and a parking lot for St. Lucas Lutheran School.

Version 1 of the Dover Site Plan (top) shows a small  circular tot lot east of the building Potter Place (B3). There is a total of three apartment units in this plan, in addition to that of the former Dover Street School, which will be converted to apartments. Version 2 of Dover Site Plan (bottom). The building that was slated for Dover St. has been removed and in its place there is open land for a play space and a parking lot for St. Lucas Lutheran School.

 

The developer of the former Dover Street School building and grounds, 619 E. Dover St., has eliminated one of the three new residential buildings originally planned for the site.

Site plans released in late December revealed that the housing development, designed with amenities to attract new teachers to Milwaukee, would possess 110 residential units. The redeveloped school building would house 43 units, with the remaining 67 distributed in three new buildings. Two of the apartment buildings would face Potter Street, while the third would face Dover, standing between St. Lucas Lutheran Church and Dover School.

Dover Street residents Sarah Kahn, Danielle Schneider, and Bob Schneider were among those who expressed opposition to the development. They testified Dec. 19 at the Milwaukee school board meeting, objecting to density problems that would come with 110 new residences. They said they foresaw increased traffic, street-parking pressure, and noise, which they said would disrupt the neighborhood perched between Kinnickinnic and Howell Avenues.

Opposition and Resolution

The Schneiders are members of St. Lucas Lutheran Church, who with fellow parishioners formed a vocal and well-organized group that lobbied MPS, in an effort to persuade it to sell Dover Street School to the congregation. The church hoped to acquire the Dover building to expand its school but also to protect its access to Dover’s playground and parking lot.

For more than a century, St. Lucas and Milwaukee Public Schools’ Dover School enjoyed a friendly relationship, one emblematic of the neighborly community values that have characterized Bay View for generations. St. Lucas is a private school that participates in Wisconsin’s K3-Grade 8 school program, which also provides childcare before and after school.

Dover shared its playground and parking lot with St. Lucas Church and School. St. Lucas feeds its students using MPS’ school lunch program.

When its graduation ceremonies and other events were too large for Dover’s auditorium, they were held in the St. Lucas School gymnasium. MPS’ Fernwood Montessori School’s basketball team uses the St. Lucas gym twice weekly for practice.

Except for the school lunches, the schools have not charged one another to use each other’s facilities.

Thwarted

Because MPS restricts the sale of its properties, whereby nonprofit organizations are prohibited from purchasing them, the St. Lucas congregation conceded that they must abandon their plans to acquire the Dover school property. Instead, the church began to seek a solution that would allow it to obtain use of the school grounds for play space and a parking lot.

Wendy Greenfield, advancement director at St. Lucas said, “We had hoped to buy the building. That wasn’t going to be an option. So we thought, how can we partner together?”

The top priority, Greenfield said, was preserving play space for both St. Lucas students and neighborhood children.

So before the developer drafted its first set of plans, a series of meetings and discussions began between key stakeholders. In time, each party was satisfied they understood the other’s goals and needs and felt they had achieved consensus.

However, when Wendy Greenfield was shown the site plans, she discovered the playground consisted solely of a tiny tot lot, tucked in the corner of the property. It was far smaller than what St. Lucas required.

“Wendy said that when she saw the first site plan, her heart stopped because there was so little space for a playground,” said Melissa Goins.

Dover project developer Melissa Goins, founder and president of Maures Development Group, LLC, took note of Greenfield’s concern and revisited the site plan.

“After talking with St. Lucas and realizing we didn’t understand what they wanted in the first discussions,” said Ellen Higgins, “we went back to the drawing board with an appreciation of what they were looking for concerning the children’s needs and safety.”

Higgins is the vice president of business development of the nonprofit CommonBond Communities, LLC, who has partnered with Maures on the Dover redevelopment project.

More talks with community members brought about the developers’ decision to remove the building that was slated for Dover Street.

“We want to respect the wishes of the neighbors. We can’t always make everyone happy but must do our best,” Goins said.

A desire to preserve the long legacy of cooperation between St. Lucas and Dover School was echoed by Rocky Marcoux, Department of City Development commissioner. “Mayor Barrett wanted to find a way to meet St. Lucas’ needs. He asked me to work with St. Lucas, the developer, and MPS. My role was to work with all parties and come up with a win for everyone,” he said. “St. Lucas was happy we were able to recognize their needs. We were aware of the role they played for a very long time.”

“We’ve had several productive meetings with these folks,” said Greenfield noting progress made in discussions between St. Lucas, the developers, MPS, and city officials. They have already committed to ensuring that a minimum of 29,000-square-feet of land will be preserved for play space and parking, which is getting closer to where we hope to be.” St. Lucas wants a playground large enough to play kickball.

The land released for use by the church was opened when the developers removed one of the three new-buildings from its plan.

“The Dover development will not be restricted to public school teachers, which is a good parallel of the good relationship over time between St. Lucas and the former MPS Dover Street School,” Marcoux said.

St. Lucas will not own the land but would perhaps be given a 100-year lease and be charged with paying for improvements and for the maintenance of the property, he said. Ownership and other terms associated with the parcel have not been finalized.

St. Lucas Lutheran School children playing in the playground of the former Dover Street School. St. Lucas School is visible in the background. —courtesy St. Lucas School

St. Lucas Lutheran School children playing in the playground of the former Dover Street School. St. Lucas School is visible in the background. —courtesy St. Lucas School

New Opposition

An element of surprise was introduced Friday, Jan. 24, when Alderman Tony Zielinski announced that he could not support any additional buildings on the former Dover Street School property.

“The overwhelming majority of residents I spoke to in the immediate area do not support the additional housing on that site. There are significant parking issues in the area and this development would further exacerbate those issues. The 110-unit plan included one- and two-bedroom units with a little more than one parking spot per unit. Those one- and two-bedroom units will add more than one car per unit. Additionally, the people would like to retain some semblance of their peaceful neighborhood ambiance,” Zielinski said in an interview with the Compass conducted by text per the alderman’s request.

“MPS never mentioned anything about any additional buildings in any of their public meetings in the district. And MPS did not provide an opportunity for questions and answers after their meetings. Then when they chose the developer, they immediately had the school board vote on the issue without a meeting in the district to discuss the additional housing,” he said.

Zielinski is confident the developer’s plans will not pass muster with the Common Council. In Milwaukee the council must approve a proposed sale of school properties because MPS facilities are owned by the city. “I believe if this issue was voted on by the council we would prevail,” he said.

Zielinski advises more engagement with his office by MPS. “If this project does not move forward,” he said, “then MPS needs to engage the community and my office from the inception, instead of having meetings where they don’t take questions and answers.”

At press time Melissa Goins said refrained to comment about the alderman’s decision not to support new construction on the Dover School site.

Responding to a request for comment the day after Zielinski’s announcement, Wendy Greenfield said, “We don’t have anything further to add until we have more information. Alderman Zielinski let us know on Friday afternoon. Maures has not given us any new information about what the developers plan to do.”

Dover Redevelopment Project Partners

Melissa N. Goins, Founder and President, Maures Development Group, LLC, a Milwaukee-based real estate development company focused on revitalizing inner city neighborhoods with residential and commercial development. As developer, Goins’ role as project leader includes attending meetings and directing the contractors and architects. 

Ellen Higgins, Vice President of Business Development, CommonBond Communities, LLC, a nonprofit corporation in St. Paul, Minn. CommonBond was originally established in 1971 by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis’ Urban Affairs Commission, and shortly after established itself as a nonsectarian social justice ministry project, independent of the archdiocese. The firm is the largest nonprofit provider of affordable housing in the upper Midwest and owns or manages more than 5,400 housing units in Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin. Ellen Higgins described her role in the Dover project as “consultant and sounding board,” and said she is working on finance.

Baltimore-based Seawall has created housing for teachers in Baltimore and Philadelphia. Seawall is providing overall quality control with its Dover partners and is working with investors and on financing.

 

 

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Comments

2 Comments on "Developer revises Dover Street School plans"

  1. Dog sledding and more at Montana resort - Make Money Property on Sun, 9th Feb 2014 3:33 pm 

    […] Developer revises Dover Street School plans Dover Street residents Sarah Kahn, Danielle Schneider, and Bob Schneider were among those who expressed opposition to the development. They testified Dec. … Because MPS restricts the sale of its properties, whereby nonprofit organizations are … Read more on Bay View Compass […]

  2. Kenneth Stempski on Thu, 27th Feb 2014 6:48 pm 

    I want to Thank Mr. Zielinski for hearing the concerns of Bay View residents to keep this a peaceful neighborhood and with less traffic.
    I would support St. Lucas if they were given the chance to purchase Dover St. School so they could expand. This would be a good thing for the Bay View Community.

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