Developers of the controversial 28-story Drew Tower in Wauwatosa overcame another hurdle Thursday night.
After the Wauwatosa Design Review Board approved the tower plans on January 20, neighbors appealed this decision.
On Thursday, the board voted to reaffirm its earlier decision.
“The Drew Tower project team is pleased that the Wauwatosa Design Review Board has confirmed previous approval of the mixed-use development plans,” said a statement from Brian Randall, an attorney who represents developer John “Johnny V.” Vasallo.
The approval prompted Underwood Neighbors United, the neighbors who oppose the plans, to appeal to the Zoning Appeals Board.
Indy Stluka, member of the neighbors group, still hopes for a “positive outcome”.
“The positive outcome is to have that corner developed; it’s just that it has to be at a reasonable height and complement the neighborhood,” Stluka said.
“We’re not against development. I can’t stress that enough,” he added.
The next Zoning Appeals Board meeting is scheduled for March 24.
The 28-storey building planned for the southwest corner of West Bluemound and North Mayfair roads can accommodate 65 apartments. The design also includes eight office floors totaling approximately 80,000 square feet.
Karl Schreiber, Wauwatosa’s building and security manager, said the board only conducted a review of its Jan. 20 decision on Thursday.
This motion carried, 4-1, with Member Robert Kennedy voting no. Kennedy had previously expressed concerns about the building’s suitability for the location.
“This building is not going to make Wauwatosa a better place to live for people in the neighborhood near this tower,” Kennedy said.
It was ultimately up to the design review board to approve the planning permission, as the project does not need to be approved by the planning commission or town council as it is a “permitted use” in the C2 zoning district.
“The Drew Tower design complies with all Wauwatosa zoning requirements and the more than $50 million project will be built without any TIF money or other public funding,” Randall said in a statement.
Joseph Cincotta, attorney for Underwood Neighbors United, argued in the council appeal that the tower will negatively affect neighbors who live near the site.
Cincotta said city ordinances require the design review board to consider the effect on property values when reviewing plans.
“The DRB has not considered the impact of the tower as currently proposed on the property values of residential and other immediately adjacent properties, including but not limited to the likely depreciation of the value of many of these nearby properties,” Cincotta wrote.
Cincotta pointed out that a Wauwatosa ordinance states that the council must determine whether the building “causes substantial depreciation in the land value of the neighborhood in the applicable district.”
Randall has also argued in the past that the project will not affect nearby property values. Randall submitted a letter to the board of directors from the president of Moegenburg Research Inc., a certified general appraiser from Wisconsin.
“No ‘substantial depreciation in property value’ of nearby residential properties has been caused by other multi-storey or mixed-use developments and it is my professional opinion that no substantial depreciation will be caused by the vertical mixed-use building,” Peter Moegenburg wrote in that letter.
Randall also maintained that the project, which aims to begin construction this fall, falls within the zoning of the site and is a permitted use.
Randall added in his statement that the building will be developed on vacant land on West Bluemound and North Mayfair Roads which will connect it to “Research Park, Milwaukee Regional Medical Center, Mayfair Mall and many other nearby destinations. “.
“The mixed-use building that will lease commercial space, office suites and apartment residences will transform the commercial corridor and be an iconic landmark for years to come,” Randall said.