Written by BILL SCHANEN IV
Wednesday, 09 April 2014 18:01
Port High, Saukville youth programs working together after tough talk last season
Members of the Port Washington High School athletic staff who nearly seven months ago expressed dissatisfaction with the Pirates’ football feeder program — the Saukville Rebels — and warned that the high school coaches were prepared to field their own youth team said this week the two organizations are now working together to improve both programs.
“Our plan is that the Rebels will continue to be a feeder program,” Port High Athletic Director Thad Gabrielse said Monday. “There will always be things that we disagree about, but what we do agree on is that everything we’re doing is for the benefit of the kids who play football.
“I’d saying we’re taking a positive approach to making this work.”
News in September of the rift between the two football institutions shocked the Port-Saukville football faithful, who for decades have supported the Rebels as fervently as they have the Pirates.
At the time, Gabrielse said the Port High coaching staff was concerned that the Rebels were not doing enough to teach future Pirates the high school team’s offense and defense and that there wasn’t enough emphasis on football fundamentals.
Beyond the technical aspects of the game, Gabrielse said in September, the Port High administration was concerned with the Rebels’ philosophical approach to the game — how coaches deal with players and conduct themselves on the field and how playing time is divided among children.
That shocked Larry Donohue, president of the 54-year-old Rebels program, which fields teams for fifth through eighth-graders.
“I don’t even know where that’s coming from,” Donohue said at the time. “We’ve never cut a single player from our program, and we’ve never turned a kid away because his family couldn’t afford the registration fee. I always found a way to make sure those kids could play.”
Lending urgency to the concerns for Port High officials is declining participation in football. A total of about 80 boys played last season on the high school’s freshman, junior varsity and varsity teams, significantly fewer than in the program’s heyday.
Now, however, many of those concerns are being addressed by both organizations, thanks, Gabrielse said, to Pirates’ head football coach John Bunyan and his Rebels’ counterpart, Al Lopez, who have been meeting regularly.
“In the February meeting, the question of how to help increase the numbers (of players) at the freshman level was addressed,” Gabrielse said. “We’re focusing on how we keep kids interested and involved in football.
“It’s not that the Rebels were doing anything wrong, but our coaches have some insights based on what they see and hear.
“And playing time is being addressed.”
Bunyan said the meetings between the coaches of the programs have focused on maintaining the identities of the two long-standing programs while bringing them together in terms of football mechanics and philosophy.
“We’ve had a lot of talks, and they have been very productive in keeping the structure of the two organizations status quo but getting both programs on the same page in terms of offensive and defensive systems, positive coaching and keeping kids interested in football,” Bunyan said.
“Coaching football is a lot of work for youth coaches and my staff, but the good news is we’re working with people who have their hearts in the right spot.”
Bunyan said Pirates’ coaches and players will be more visible at Rebels’ practices and games. He envisions high school players attending Rebels practices occasionally and holding additional clinics and events that bring players of all ages and coaches together on the field.
“I want to build a community of kids excited about football,” Bunyan said. “I want kids to have fun and stay interested in football.”
Donohue is pleased the two programs are working more closely but said he is still perplexed by the sudden breakdown in relations between the organizations last season.
“To tell you the truth, I still don’t know what happened last season,” he said last week. “They (high school athletic staff members) apparently thought we weren’t doing enough to match what the high school team was doing or we weren’t doing it fast enough.
“We really haven’t changed a thing. Working with the high school has been an ongoing process for us. Our intention has always been to do what the high school does, which only makes sense since that’s where our kids will play eventually.
“Either way, everything seems fine now.”
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 02 April 2014 18:45
Downtown units with lake views hit the market at an average price of $695,000
The “For Sale” sign is about to go up on Port Washington’s newest condominium project — Harbour Lights Lakeside Condominiums in the former M&I Bank building in downtown.
Developer Gertjan van den Broek said Tuesday that the sales office will open next week for the $6 million redevelopment project, which will add 13 high-end condominiums and 10,000 square feet of commercial space to downtown Port.
To do that, he will redevelop the former M&I Bank and Harry’s Restaurant buildings and build a third structure between them.
Van den Broek said he will concentrate his marketing efforts on the residential spaces first, since the project is primarily a residential one.
Without any aggressive marketing, he said, one of the east-side condos has already been spoken for and he has a list of 24 people interested in the condominiums.
“We’ve had a very good response to the project,” van den Broek said.
Speaking to those potential clients, holding open houses for brokers and real estate agents and getting the project website up and running are the goals for April, van den Broek said.
With open houses set for summer, he foresees the bulk of the presales for the project being completed this summer, with construction slated to begin in October and end by fall 2015, when residents can move in.
In order to get banks to finance the project and the City of Port Washington to provide the development incentives it has agreed to, van den Broek must sell 60% of the project before construction begins.
That’s the equivalent of the six east-side condominiums, he said.
The average price tag for those east-side condos is $695,000, van den Broek said, adding they average about 2,400 square feet.
The seven west-side condominiumswill be priced from $250,000 to the $300,000s, range in size from 1,500 to 1,900 square feet, he said.
Each condo has one underground parking space with opportunities for the owner to purchase a second spot.
The views on both sides of the building are spectacular, van den Broek said.
“The lake views are spectacular, but our west units are pretty phenomenal,” he said. “Port’s downtown is beautiful, so they offer great views too.”
Each unit has three upgrade packages that will allow owners to customize and individualize their condominium, as well as a white-box option in which the owner can design the unit.
Van den Broek said the residential project will meet a need expressed by empty nesters in the area, a market that’s borne out by market research.
“Their ties are here, but we found there’s no place for them to go except downtown Milwaukee,” he said. “The other condo projects in downtown are for the most part full. They’re significantly smaller.
“What we have to offer is a different product.”
A big part of the project’s appeal is Port Washington, and van den Broek is marketing the city as much as the project.
“That’s part of this project’s appeal, the environment in which it sits — the beauty of Port Washington and how many good things are happening in Port Washington right now,” he said.
Van den Broek said the project would not be moving forward without the city’s willingness to provide $1.75 million in development incentives. The incentives will be repaid to the city through the increased taxes generated by the project.
“It was a game-changer,” he said, noting it gave banks, investors and potential residents assurance that it will be built. “None of this would have happened if the city hadn’t said it was willing to partner on the project.
“When everybody’s pulling in the same direction, it has a much greater opportunity for success,” van den Broek said. “The only question now is whether Port’s ready for the project, whether the economy’s ready for the project.
“And the only way to know that, to get the 60% in presales, is to market the project.”
For Van den Broek, Harbour Lights Lakeside Condominiums is the culmination of more than two years worth of work. He purchased the former bank building through Renew Port Holdings, a limited-liability corporation he set up to provide residents with a chance to pool their resources and invest in the community.
Since the city approved incentives for the project, he said, five investors have joined the corporation, most of them residents of the city.
“People see the project’s moving forward, they see the city’s on board, that this is clearly a public-private partnership, and they’re more willing to invest,” he said.
While Van den Broek is concentrating on the residential aspect of the project right now, he isn’t neglecting the commercial spaces.
“Obviously, we’ve been speaking to people,” he said. “We’re being very selective about the type of tenants we want. We want to fill the spaces with tenants that will complement the residential
aspect of the project, businesses that would fit with the city and the downtown.”
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 26 March 2014 17:33
Plans for a baseball complex on Port Washington’s west side got a nod of approval from the city Plan Commission last week.
The commission’s approval sets the stage for Port Washington Youth Baseball to begin work on the $1.5 million complex, perhaps beginning construction on the first phase by the end of the year.
Before that happens, however, the group must obtain the necessary funding and a grading agreement between the city and its Highway 33 contractor must be successfully completed.
Games wouldn’t be played at the complex until 2016, association officials said.
The first phase of the project includes a concessions stand and the two largest fields — a regulation field and an intermediate sized field — as well as infrastructure.
The overall complex would include four fields, a concessions stand with restrooms, parking, playground and a walking trail with fitness stations that would be built on city-owned land at the southeast corner of Highway 33 and Jackson Road.
The concessions stand would be located in the center of the four fields — a regulation field, intermediate-sized field and two Little League fields.
The complex would be bordered on the north by three commercial lots that would front Highway 33 and by residential lots on the east side that would abut the Bley Park Estates subdivision.
Motorists would access the complex off Jackson Road and park on the north side, where there would be approximately 100 parking spaces, architect Mike Ehrlich said.
A formal entry featuring donation bricks would be sited there, with paths leading to the diamonds and playground. A roughly half-mile-long walking path would go around the perimeter of the complex.
Each field will have a scoreboard and bleachers, and they ultimately will be lit, Ehrlich said.
Don Buechler, 1782 Second Ave., questioned why neighbors had not been informed about the project before the meeting so they could raise concerns.
He said he believes the complex would result in additional noise, traffic and litter, and he is also concerned about light spilling over into the surrounding neighborhood.
“It’ll change my neighborhood significantly,” Buechler said. “I’m concerned about the effect on my property value. I don’t see it as enhancing it.”
Ehrlich said the baseball association plans to do landscaping to minimize the noise effect, and the fields have been located so the bleachers will face west, away from surrounding residential developments.
The lights will have shields so most of the light will shine onto the fields and not spill out of the complex, Ehrlich said.
Port Youth Baseball President Rich Stasik also noted that tournaments, when the fields will get the most intensive uses, typically end by 10 p.m.
City officials noted that the land has been slated for recreational use since the city purchased it more than a decade ago. The complex is included in the city’s parks plan, which was the subject of a public hearing.
A memo of understanding between the baseball association and the city that outlined the plans was approved by the Common Council several years ago.
Port Youth Baseball has raised more than $100,000 and is talking to community groups about funding and sponsorships. A fundraising campaign aimed at the entire community is planned.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 19 March 2014 17:49
Council decides to pay consultant another $15,000 to seek grants that would supplement Army Corps funds
The Port Washington Common Council on Tuesday doubled up its efforts to get grant money to repair the deteriorating breakwater.
The city agreed to pay an additional $15,000 to Foth Engineering — doubling the funds it has already committed — in hopes of obtaining state grants that will supplement $950,000 allocated by the Army Corps of Engineers to repair the breakwater this summer.
“What is now a $950,000 solution could become a $2 million to $3 million solution,” Mayor Tom Mlada said, noting that while the work that will be done by the Army Corps this summer is only a partial fix for the breakwater.
“This is our window of opportunity. We can’t bank on the fact there’ll be another $950,000 next year and $2 million after that,” he said.
Corps officials are willing to work with the city to maximize the work that can be done and coordinate it, he added.
City Administrator Mark Grams said the $950,000 Army Corps allocation “is almost like seed money” that can be used to match any grants the city gets.
The city can’t afford not to take advantage of this, said Ald. Dave Larson, chairman of the Finance and License Committee.
“It’s opening the door for more grants,” he said. “Now that we have this momentum, we certainly want to continue to move forward.”
Army Corps representatives told the city last week that it doesn’t know how much it can achieve with the $950,000, Mlada said. It seems as if much of the project will be surface work, he said.
The Corps plans to send a structural engineer to Port in the coming weeks to examine the breakwater and check the surface, face and sides to try and determine how much deterioration has occurred since last summer’s inspection, he added.
Even then, they may not have a clear picture of how much work is needed until the project begins this summer, officials said.
“It’s like exploratory surgery, where they go in and look around to find out what’s wrong. They might not know until July, when they take the cap off,” Grams said. “They don’t know what exactly they’ll find.”
The Army Corps said work is expected to begin in late July, Mlada said, which gives the city time to apply for additional funds for the project.
“The challenge is that much of the work will happen during the height of the tourist season,” he said.
Grams said it is feasible that the city could obtain an additional $1 million to $2 million in grant money for the breakwater. That money could be used for such things as armor stone around the breakwater to protect it from erosion.
“I think they (the Army Corps) would like to do armor stone, but I think the breakwater structure itself is the first thing,” Grams said, adding armor stone is expensive.
It’s difficult to determine what grant funds would be used for, he said, because the city doesn’t know exactly what the Army Corps project will entail, he added.
The city’s original $15,000 contract with Foth and SmithGroup JJR includes the preparation of one grant application.
“Now that we know what programs are out there, we need to move ahead,” Grams said.
That’s especially important because Port’s breakwater is a low priority for the Army Corps, which owns the structure, Mlada said, noting the city is no longer a commercial port.
While the original contract with Foth and SmithGroup JJR is being funded with marina funds, the extension approved Tuesday will be financed through the city’s contingency funds.
A portion of the grant funds obtained could be used to replenish the contingency fund, Larson said.
Aldermen also approved an increase in the daily and seasonal launch rates at the marina, to $10 and $95, respectively.
Any funds in excess of the $25,000 in budgeted revenue from each of these fees will be designated for breakwater repairs.
The measure may not bring in much money this year, Grams said.
“With the long winter we’ve been having, fishing is not going to be very good,” he said, and that often determines how many launches occur.
But it is a way to drive home the message to users of the marina that they have a stake in the breakwater issue, and to assure city residents that they are not alone in tackling the issue, Mlada said.