Council signs off on height exception for Port Hotel

Officials praise project but one renews objections to zoning code exemptions
Ozaukee Press staff

The Port Hotel will be allowed to construct an elevator hoistway on the south side of its building that exceeds the 35 foot height in downtown.

Aldermen praised the renovations to the landmark bar and restaurant as they approved the height exception following a public hearing that no one spoke at last week.

The hoistway will be topped with a sign advertising the Moonlight Tavern at the Port Hotel while a sign at the bottom will announce the entryway to the Port Hotel Suites.

It will extend about 53 feet above the ground, approximately six feet higher than the existing roof penthouse, officials said.

“This will become, I believe, the third tall iconic structure in the city that’s private,” Ald. John Sigwart said, citing the Smith Bros. neon sign and the proposed grain silo sign at the soon to be built Inventors Brewpub as the others.

“It looks like it’s going to be beautiful.”

But as nice as the sign will look when it’s built, Sigwart expressed concern that it could fall into disrepair and asked that the city make maintenance of the sign a condition of the height exception.

“This will be a piece of sign art,” building co-owner Jim Read said, noting the sign will be printed much like billboards are and then mounted to the wall of the hoistway.

“If it needs to be maintained, it will be removed and replaced,” he said.

Mayor Ted Neitzke said he worries that if the building is sold, the sign won’t be a priority.

“It is disheartening when you see Smith ros.,” he said, referring to times when the “B” in the sign isn’t lit.

Aldermen agreed that a maintenance agreement need not be written into the height exception since they have an understanding with Read.

Ald. Deb Postl said she is happy an elevator is being added to the Port Hotel, noting it will make is easier for people to enjoy the inn and the rooftop venue Read and his partner, Angel Tello, are adding to the building.

Read, an architect and co-owner of the building, has said the rooftop deck is an important part of the building, allowing people to enjoy views of the city they haven’t previously seen.

Only Ald. Mike Gasper voted against the height exception.

“I think this is a great project,” he said, but he said he is “continuing my protest against the 35 foot building height.”

While the elevator hoistway was the topic of last week’s discussion, there will be several other changes to the building as well.

The south side of the building will be an entry for the hotel, while diners will continue to enter through the north side of the structure.

Four airing porches will replace the existing fire escapes and two doors added to provide access to the patio on the southwest side of the building.

In addition, the parking lot will be redesigned to provide 22 spaces.


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