St. Mary’s apartment plan clears another hurdle

Port commission likes Ansay’s proposed redevelopment of school that would leverage TIF funds, tax credits
Ozaukee Press staff

Ansay Development’s plan to turn the former St. Mary’s School and Parish House into  an apartment building received conceptual approval from the city’s Plan Commission.

The firm will “repurpose and reinvent” the former school and parish houses, keeping the exterior largely as it is while creating 25 to 35 market-rate apartments inside, Ian McCain, Ansay’s design/construction manager, told the commission on June 20.

That’s due in part to the fact Ansay has applied to have the school, parish center, St. John XXIII Parish’s St. Mary’s Catholic Church and the former rectory to the north of the school, which is today Anita’s Gardens assisted living, declared a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places.

Doing so will allow Ansay to seek tax credits for the work on the school and parish center buildings, McCain said. A city tax incremental financing district would also be used to fund the project.

But while Ansay isn’t changing the exterior of the building, it would make significant changes to the parking lot and neighboring streets.

That work is being done to ensure there is a similar amount of parking for the church after the apartments are created, McCain said, noting parking has always been an issue in the area.

Ansay has worked with the city to come up with a plan that would create 99 parking stalls around the church that could be used for Masses, weddings and funerals, McCain said. These spaces would be signed to facilitate parish parking.

While Johnson Street will continue to be a one-way road, the current parallel parking would be replaced with angle parking, said Craig Huebner, an engineer with Graef who is working on the project.

Ansay will use a portion of the school property to do this, he said.

Ansay hopes to also create some indoor parking at the school, Huebner said, but if it can’t, the company may seek to create carports in some areas so it can offer some covered parking.

“You really have to make it look nice,” Mayor Marty Becker, chairman of the commission, said of the carport plan.

The parking changes will only affect the church and school properties, not the neighboring land to the south, McCain said.

A new drop-off and turn-around space in front of the church that would be more pedestrian-friendly is also planned, Huebner said.
Ansay’s plan also calls for a significant amount of landscaping, especially at the corner of Van Buren and Johnson streets and at the school parking lot, which would be reserved for the apartment tenants and their guests.

Commission members were pleased with the landscaping and parking plans.

“I look at what’s happening on the parking lot and I think that’ll be a big plus,” Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven, a member of the commission, said. “Right now, it’s just kind of a jumble.”

“I think controlling the parking will help with traffic and the flow,” commission member Brenda Fritsch added.

Ansay officials have said work on the project could begin by the end of the year, with an eight-month construction period expected. The value of the completed project is expected to be between $3.5 million and $5 million.

In other action, the Plan Commission:

n Approved exterior improvements to the former Port Washington firehouse at 102 E. Pier St. — last known as Blue Heron Artisans Gallery — which was recently acquired by Lake Financial Group.

The improvements include removing the black railing and installing a wall at knee height at the main entry off Wisconsin Street, repainting trim, replacing the doors, repairing and replacing the existing rafter tails, and adding new signage.

Lake Financial plans to move its operations from the Boerner Building on Franklin Street to the new location in September.

“It’s nice to see some life in there,” Fritsch said.

n Approved a new sign for Tello’s Grill and Cafe. 

The sign is internally lit, which is generally discouraged, but Bob Harris, the city’s director of planning and development, noted that the city codes don’t prohibit that type of sign.

“On Franklin Street, there are externally lit signs,” he said. “On Grand Avenue, it’s a different flavor.”

The sign will be internally lit by LED lights, said Josh Brown from Sign Effectz.

“It’s a subtle illumination,” he said.

Because just the letters will be lit, Brown added, the impact will be less than a sign illuminated by a spotlight.

The sign meets with city’s sign code requirements, Harris said.

“I think it looks nice,” commission member Ron Voigt said.

Becker said he would like to ensure the sign isn’t lit all night long but instead turned off at some point.

n Approved final site and building plans for a 35-unit apartment building and three duplexes at 150 N. Sweetwater Blvd. to be built by Bielinski Homes.

The three-story apartment building will be similar in design to a senior apartment complex Bielinski is building just east of Sweetwater Drive, off Highway 33. 

Bielinski plans to break ground for that project this summer.


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