by Rick Romano
We checked into what is happening across the city and found various news ranging from an effort to regulate the height of commercial buildings and the early formation of a new city park to the School District reaching out to the community and what appears to be the last chapter of a familiar village bookstore. Discover that and more in this month’s briefs from the news desk.
Hitting the heights
The beginning of a renewed look at a citywide height limit proposed for commercial buildings was anticipated to begin this month starting at the Plan Commission, said Mayor Dennis McBride, who pointed to the increase in developers attracted to the city. He noted a prime example: the proposal for the 28-story residential tower at the southwest corner of Bluemound and Mayfair roads that was turned down due to the development’s impact on nearby residential neighborhoods. A downscaled version of the project was also rejected.
The height limitation proposal came in early October from District 3 Alderman Joseph Makhlouf, whose district includes the proposed residential tower. He said he is going to advocate for the new C-2 zone height restriction – no more than 5-6 stories – throughout the process that he said will go through a committee process that includes a public hearing and ultimately back to the Common Council. He anticipates that it will happen toward the end of this year, at least.
“I know the proposed development was a surprise to many,” McBride said. “We have not heard from the developer [Johnny Vasallo] lately.” Vasallo hinted at building a car wash on the site, which has not formally come before the city for approval.
The discussion does not affect moving forward at a separately zoned area with the planned redevelopment of Mayfair Mall’s south end where a $400 million apartment community and a new anchor store will occupy the space roughly outlined by the former Boston Store (now vacant for five years). It has ties to a reported $58 million city financing package. McBride said a well known major anchor retailer– unnamed as of late October– is set to be a new mall anchor.
A new park
Look for the emergence of a new city park at the southeast corner of 116th Street and Gilbert Avenue. What Mayor McBride described as a “kind of scruffy area” is getting a new life, thanks to city-DNR grant funding and an additional $61,490 from a city contingency fund.
McBride said the space is a valuable addition as a neighborhood park that will take some time to develop. He said the city would welcome anyone who has an interest in the park’s naming rights.
Sending a message
The Common Council in September adopted an anti-discrimination ordinance introduced by Ald. Sean Lowe. The ordinance is consistent with existing state and federal law that prohibits discrimination in employment or in public spaces based on age, disability, race, sexuality, gender, appearance, or criminal record.
Ald. Lowe said the measure was important to him as the city’s first elected Black alderman. “It is important that the city shares its values,” Lowe said.
Those values were evident in 2019, when the city formed its first citizen-led Equity and Inclusion Commission. For issues involving discrimination, McBride emphasized the city does not get directly involved. Instead, it can direct those with issues to the proper authorities.
Meanwhile, at the Regional Medical Center
The city has renewed its commitment to staffing a police substation at Froedtert. McBride and Sgt. Abby Pavlik, police spokesperson, noted the city has provided enhanced law enforcement services to the Regional Medical Center since 2021.
“We currently have one officer assigned to the campus grounds, one assigned to Children’s Hospital Emergency Department and one officer assigned to the Froedtert Hospital Emergency Department,” Pavlik said. “The plan provides us time to ensure we have the staffing to provide law enforcement services to the medical center while continuing to provide exceptional police service to our community. We respond to a variety of calls for service on campus just as we do within the community.”
McBride said the growing relationship between the city and the medical center facilities includes providing fire services since 1981 as well as providing water services. “Our partnership has been growing closer and closer,” he said.
In mid-November, McBride participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for construction of a new Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s facility, which will include the state crime lab.
Mind these intersections
Some of the most dangerous intersections in the region are located through much of Tosa.
Sgt. Pavlik said the Milwaukee County Dept. of Transportation has identified the intersections along Mayfair Road, from Watertown Plank Road to W. Capital Drive, as among the most dangerous.
“The Wauwatosa Police Department has collaborated with the Wisconsin State Patrol to deploy reckless driving-targeted enforcement teams,” Pavlik said, “Our department also routinely deploys officers to specific hot spot areas to conduct traffic stops on vehicles that exhibit dangerous behaviors, such as excessive speeding and disregarding traffic signals. Those hot spot areas are identified by our crime analyst, who, on a weekly basis, determines which Wauwatosa intersections have seen the most motor vehicle crashes reported to police.”
“While those hot spot areas have a high frequency of crashes, they also are the areas that have the greatest traffic volume,” she added. “Making a connection between instances of motor vehicle crashes and instances of reckless driving would require a deeper analysis of crash reporting data, more than simply counting the number of crashes. However, targeting those high-volume areas is a great way to be effective with enforcement. Not only do we issue warnings and tickets, but the visibility of a traffic stop will signal to motorists that we’re taking reckless driving very seriously.”
Pavlik noted that the department’s crime analyst also determines which local intersections have seen the most motor vehicle crashes reported to police. Patrols are deployed to “hot spot” areas to conduct traffic stops on drivers who exhibit dangerous behaviors such as speeding and disregarding traffic signals.
The Police Department has identified the best way to stay safe in every way this holiday season. Here is a list of tips:
Shopping safety when out and about or online:
- Do not leave merchandise, bags, or other valuables visible in your vehicle.
- Park in well-lit, populated areas if possible. Lock your vehicle doors.
- Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings.
- Carry your purse or wallet on your person at all times.
- Shopping with the kids? Teach your kids to go to a store clerk or security guard if you get separated, and don’t allow your kids to go off by themselves.
- Only shop on sites that start with “https.” The “s” stands for secure.
- Monitor your credit card statements for fraudulent purchases.
- Protect your packages from “Porch Pirates.”
- Have your packages delivered to your workplace.
- Utilize an Amazon Hub locker.
- Require a signature for packages.
- Have the Post Office hold your mail for pickup.
- Install a video doorbell.
- Schedule deliveries for when you know someone will be home.
- Purchase a porch lock box.
- At home:
- Use caution when answering the door for a stranger. Criminals often use disguises and pose as couriers or other service members. Ask for identification.
- Check out charitable organizations before you donate.
- While traveling:
- Lock your home’s doors and windows and shut the garage.
- Get an automatic timer for your lights.
- Ask a neighbor to watch your home and park in the driveway from time to time.
- Stop mail delivery.
- Arrange for someone to shovel if it snows.
- Avoid post-holiday burglars:
- Don’t leave boxes for new electronics and other items by the curb or other garbage pick-up locations.
- Break down boxes you are throwing out and place them inside a recycling bin.
- Think about keeping broken-down boxes inside until the evening before your regular garbage pick-up. Some burglars will look inside garbage cans for evidence of holiday gifts.
The Wauwatosa School District has taken a step to further involve the community in knowing more about how the district goes about educating students.
The Community Leader Academy started in fall, with an announcement stating “public education has changed significantly over the years. How schools operate today is vastly different from when many adults remember their formative school years.” The intention, the district stated, is to provide an enhanced understanding of the district leading to more meaningful relationships with educational leaders.
The first group, intended for no more than 25 participants, was presented with a wide variety of topics in eight, 90-minute sessions by district administrators. Topics included:
- District overview specifically about community relations and partnerships
- District/state budgeting and funding
- Support for pupils and families with emphasis on special education, discipline, and safety
- Human Resources
- Operations including facilities, technology and recreation
- Academic performance
- District’s vision of a graduate and strategic planning
Sarah Ellis, the District’s Communications Director, pointed to a successful sign-up participation that helped the district form a second group.
“There are 25 individuals in this cohort and 25 in the January 17, 2024, group,” Ellis said. “Initially, we received so much interest that when we closed the sign-up form, we realized that we had enough interest to create both cohorts right away.”
The longstanding village bookstore, The Little Read Book, is facing the end of a more than 37-year run.
Both Linda Burg, the store’s founder and current owner, as well as Jon Thoresen, the building owner, recently confirmed that fact, amid some confusing announcements that had the ending written-off ahead of its time.
It now looks like The Little Read Book will survive well past the holidays, but the end is in sight, possibly sometime in early 2024. There is an agreed-upon four-month notice before a new tenant can take over the almost 2,700-square-foot space.
Sweetgreen, a salad restaurant chain that operates in Los Angeles, New York City, Boston, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, prematurely went public in September with its intention to move to the Tosa location at 7603 W. State St.
When the time comes, the store will leave behind a rich history of entrepreneurship in which Burg, who had no retail experience, took her love of books, and made a business that has lasted almost four decades.
A native of New Hampshire, Burg lived in Maine when she and her then-husband moved with their three young boys to Wauwatosa. “We thought it would save the marriage,” she said. “But it didn’t.” She later remarried.
After her mother died, Burg set out to make a living on her own by first establishing the bookstore in what is now the 400-square-foot kitchen of the Firefly Restaurant on Harwood Avenue. Needing more space and a more visible opportunity after a few years, Burg said she and staff members carted books across the bridge to the State Street location.
Burg said over the years she about she employed 40 employees – many of them students. Today, she has one manager, Anne Purtell, who has been instrumental in keeping the shop open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily – especially while Burg was recovering from hip-replacement surgery.
The store has thrived but also has withstood hiccups over the years. Burg said a major flooding storm some years back “did great damage” to adjoining businesses. Somehow the bookstore was not affected. She credits the former bank building from the 1950s for still having two large vaults as the saving grace.