Marriott developers to appeal Historic Preservation Commission ruling

Jackson Street Management LLC, the developer of the proposed Marriott hotel project in downtown Milwaukee, said it will appeal a ruling Monday by the Historic Preservation Commission to approve 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.

Evan Zeppos, a spokesman for Jackson Street Management, said that setback redesign requirement would make the project unfeasible and would kill the project.

“It just drives the cost through the roof,” he said. “It can’t be done. It’s not like moving Legos around.”

The 200-room, $50 million hotel would be built around the Johnson Bank building (which would remain), located southwest of Wisconsin Avenue and Milwaukee Street. The developers are not seeking any subsidy from the city, but the project has been controversial because the plans include the demolition of five buildings that are more than 100 years old and are in a historic district. The developers have argued they should be allowed to demolish the buildings because the structures are in bad condition and their appearance has been altered significantly over the years, reducing their historic and architectural value.

 

In December the commission approved the demolition of the buildings for the hotel project, but only if the facades were preserved.

Jackson Street Management, which includes Ed Carow and Mark Flaherty of Milwaukee-based hotel development firm Wave Development LLC, presented a revised plan Monday to the commission. That plan included a restoration of the historic building facades on Wisconsin Avenue, but the developers said they could not restore the facades on Milwaukee Street because of structural problems with the buildings.

“We have a more expensive project now (after the redesign), no doubt about it,” Zeppos said. “We did want to be responsive to the (historic preservation) process.”

However, Jackson Street Management said it cannot meet the commission’s latest redesign request and will appeal the decision to the full Common Council. They will need to receive the support of a super-majority of 10 of the 15 members to overturn the ruling by the Historic Preservation Commission.

The Historic Preservation Commission is required to only consider the impact of a project on the city’s historic buildings. The Common Council will be able to consider the broader impact of the hotel project including the jobs that it would create and its impact on the city’s tax base.
“Now we can have a policy argument,” Zeppos said. “For us (the Common Council) is a better place to argue what’s best for the city and what’s good for downtown.”

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