Design concerns dog Port townhouse proposal

Plan Commission OKs concept plan but members voice concerns about density, look of development

A RENDERING BY Continuum Architects and Planners shows a revised design for a nine townhouse development on East Jackson Street. Port Washington Plan Commission members last week approved the concept of the development while expressing concerns about the modern design and density on the site.
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

The Port Washington Plan Commission last week approved a concept plan for a proposed nine-townhouse development along East Jackson Street, but members expressed concerns about the density and design of the building.

“What I see in that area might be seven (units) instead of nine. I don’t like how it takes the entire site,” commission member Tony Matera said, adding he would also prefer a “more timeless, classic design.”

“Done right, it’s going to complement the area and tie it together.”

Commission member Brenda Fritsch, an architect, concurred, saying the building seems to be a tight fit for the site.

“I do support the use,” commission member Eric Ryer said, adding, “I want it to blend better with the newer buildings in the area.”

Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven, a member of the commission, said he shares concerns about the modern design of the proposed development.

“I personally don’t think it fits in,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with the concept.”

Architect Vaishali Wagh of Continuum Architects told the commission that the design, while modern, is intended to be a transition between the traditional architecture of downtown and the more modern design of the proposed Newport Shores development a few blocks from the proposed townhouses.

The building has a modern design that draws from elements of buildings found downtown, she added, while using traditional materials such as Cream City brick.

“The modern language exists in Port Washington,” she said.

The commission also recommended the city approve a special exception that would allow the townhouses to exceed the 35-foot height restriction in downtown, noting that the building is set against the Jackson Street hill.

“It is not obstructing any of the views of the buildings on top of the hill,” Wagh said.

Bob Harris, the city’s director of planning and development, noted that the building will be four feet lower than the home atop the hill.

The three-story building will be 43 feet tall, with the tallest element being a rooftop patio, Wagh said.

She noted that the townhouses on the east end of the building will be stepped back to enhance the views.

Each of the nine units will have a garage and vestibule on the main floor, with the main living areas on the second floor and bedrooms on the third.

The garages will be recessed with balconies overhanging them and the entrances bumped out so the building will not appear to be monolithic, Wagh said.

Fritsch praised that, saying it will make the building more pedestrian friendly.

“It’s not just a continuous wall all the way,” she said.

But commission members did express some concerns about the fact the building fills much of the site.

“It seems like it’s using every square inch of the property and is packed in there,” Matera said.

To make the project work financially, Wagh said, there needs to be nine units, adding the building is appropriately sized for that number of homes. Each unit is about 2,000 square feet.

Matera also expressed concern that the townhouse development will not soften the look of the Lighthouse Condominiums behind it — something he had hoped it would do — but instead “make that whole corner stick out like a thumb.”

“I like what’s being shown,” commission member Ron Voigt said. “It’s right downtown. Townhomes fit very well with our walkable community.”

Ald. Paul Neumyer agreed, saying the location is ideal for townhouses.

“I think it’s a great location for that,” he said. “But I think the architecture still needs some work. I think we can work through that.”

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