Near West Side Partners opposes planned facility for boys with disabilities

Organization says location better suited for commercial development

An abandoned three-story building at 2801 W. Wisconsin Ave.

Plans to renovate a dilapidated three-story building on West Wisconsin Avenue and turn it into a 50-bed residential care facility for boys with developmental and psychological disabilities have met opposition from Near West Side Partners.

The property at 2801 W. Wisconsin Ave. was purchased by a continuum of care organization called Oconomowoc Residential Programs Inc. for $50,000 in November from an affiliate of T.V. John & Son Inc. a Butler-based project planning and construction company.

ORP is currently seeking approval from the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families to move forward with its plans, which include renovating the existing building and constructing an addition, according to Robert Pledl, an attorney representing ORP. The facility would serve boys ages 12 to 20.

But Near West Side Partners — a nonprofit that aims to revitalize west side neighborhoods led by representatives from Aurora Health Care, Harley-Davidson Motor Co., Marquette University, MillerCoors LLC and Potawatomi Business Development Corp. — says the property is a prime location for commercial development.

“27th and Wisconsin is a major intersection not just for the near west side but for the city of Milwaukee,” said Keith Stanley, executive director of NWSP. “We are open and welcoming to many intervening agencies and nonprofits and we are home to many of the mainline nonprofits, as well as many not so known in the city and state…but with any community, you need a healthy mix and Wisconsin Avenue is our main commercial corridor. It’s main street for the city of Milwaukee.”

Stanley sent a letter on behalf of NWSP to the Department of Children and Families on June 10 urging the state office to deny ORP’s request to build the residential care facility. Stanley noted the west side’s high concentration of social service programs, nonprofit organizations and homeless shelters in the letter.

“The Near West Side views these current, longstanding stakeholders as assets, not liabilities, and has no intention of displacing current organizations or services,” Stanley wrote. “However, further concentration of intervention services in an already challenged neighborhood does an even greater disservice to the disadvantaged clients the project intends to serve.”

Pledl said ORP wants to build a facility in Milwaukee to make services more accessible to patients who live in the city and it is specifically interested in building on the site because of its location and easy access to public transportation.

“ORP already operates a similar facility in Oconomowoc and they understand the difficulties Milwaukee parents have in getting there to participate in therapy and  being able to take their kids home for a weekend,” Pledl said. “The criteria was that it be located within the city of Milwaukee and on a transportation hub … the site is ideal in terms of its location.”

Though ORP did not offer specific details of its renovation and construction plans, Pledl said the facility would employ around 140 people once completed and have an annual payroll of around $6 million.

Though ORP already owns the property, the organization must prove to the Department of Children and Families there is a need for such a facility. If the state office approves ORP’s plans, it will then go before the Milwaukee Board of Zoning Appeals for further review.

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Ben Stanley, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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