Common Council panel approves Marriott appeal

    The Milwaukee Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee today voted 3-2 in support of a developer’s appeal of a Historic Preservation Commission ruling on the proposed Marriott hotel project in downtown Milwaukee.
    Aldermen Robert Bauman and Tony Zielinski voted no. Aldermen Michael Murphy, Willie Wade and James Witkowiak voted yes.
    The developers for the Marriott project, Jackson Street Management LLC, are appealing a Historic Preservation Commission ruling this week that approved the project but only if the top three floors of the 10-story building are set back at least 15 feet from the Milwaukee Street sidewalk.
    A supermajority of 10 of the 15 members of the full Common Council is needed to overturn a Historic Preservation Commission ruling. The council could vote on the matter at its next meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 19.
    The $50 million, 200-room hotel project is controversial because developers want to demolish five buildings that are more than 100 years old and are within a historic district. The hotel would be built around the Johnson Bank building (which would remain), located southwest of Wisconsin Avenue and Milwaukee Street.
    Jackson Street Management has agreed to preserve and restore the facades of the historic buildings along Wisconsin Avenue, but they say the facades along Milwaukee Street cannot be saved because of structural problems with the buildings. They also say the Historic Preservation Commission’s setback requirement is not feasible and would kill the project.
    “The set-back is a deal-breaker. It’s a job-killer,” said Jackson Street Management principal Mark Flaherty.
    The developers agreed not to demolish any of the buildings until they are able to complete the project.
    “Our financing is locked in place and our agreement with Marriott is solid,” Flaherty said.
    Bauman said approving the project would be a violation of the city’s Historic Preservation Ordinance.
    “So as long as the ordinance is on the books, every member of this council is required to follow it, whether the media likes it or not,” Bauman said.
    Flaherty agreed to a request from Wade to use emerging business enterprises for about 20 percent of the contracting work and to have a minimum of about 20 percent of the workers on the project be city residents.
    Flaherty said he has been surprised by the difficulty of the approval process for the project.
    “Quite frankly if I knew it was going to be like this, I wouldn’t have gone through with it,” Flaherty said.
    “Keep in mind it would be impossible if you were trying to do affordable housing in Waukesha,” Murphy said. “It’s not like development is flying through in the suburbs.”
    – BizTimes Milwaukee

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