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Panel OKs Condo Tower Project Proposed for Goll Mansion Site

October 1, 2008

By TOM DAYKIN

Plans for a condominium tower, proposed for a site directly behind a historic mansion on Milwaukee’s east side, are moving forward after winning approval Tuesday from the Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee.

That 4-0 committee vote means the 26-story tower, which would be behind the Goll house, 1550 N. Prospect Ave., will likely win full council approval.

The project also has been endorsed by the Historic Preservation Commission and Plan Commission.

New Land Enterprises plans to restore the mansion, which would provide the street-level lobby entrance to the tower, along with two guest suites and a ballroom for condo residents on the mansion’s upper floors.

The high-rise would be connected to the mansion, with the entire project valued at $65 million upon completion.

Opponents, including residents of a neighboring condo tower at 1522 N. Prospect Ave., say the high-rise would not be compatible with the mansion, built in 1898.

Neighboring residents also say the high-rise would affect their views of Lake Michigan, saying the Goll house’s historic status led them to believe a high-rise wouldn’t be developed on the site.

Project supporters, however, said views are not guaranteed, and that a property owner has a right to seek city permission for development on a historic site.

They also said New Land’s plans provided the best chance to restore the mansion, which has been carved up into small offices.

Some neighbors told committee members they’re skeptical about New Land’s plans to restore the mansion.

The zoning approval includes a provision that requires New Land to complete the Goll house restoration before occupancy permits will be issued for the high-rise’s 35 condo units.

Those units cannot be sold without occupancy permits, and that gives New Land a strong incentive to complete the mansion restoration, said Debbie Tomczyk, New Land’s attorney.

But neighboring resident Patrick Dunphy and other opponents said there will be tremendous pressure on City Hall to issue the occupancy permits even if the Goll house restoration isn’t completed.

He and others said New Land should be required to put the Goll house restoration funds in an escrow account to make sure the work is done.

Assistant City Attorney Gregg Hagopian said the Common Council doesn’t have the authority to seek such a requirement.

Tomczyk also questioned the legality of requiring an escrow account, and said the provision would make it more difficult for New Land to obtain financing for the high-rise.

The units in New Land’s proposed tower would sell at prices starting at $1.2 million.

The Goll property is zoned for high-rise development, including a building bigger than the current proposal.

New Land’s proposal needs council approval because the building’s seven highest stories would be closer to the property’s lot lines than allowed.

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