Port board endorses sweeping redevelopment proposal that includes former bank building, calls for 18 urban residences
An ambitious plan to redevelop the former M&I Bank and Harry’s Restaurant buildings in downtown Port Washington — including the construction of a new building between the two and an addition to the east side of the structures — to create a retail and residential development was unveiled Tuesday by Gertjan van den Broek of Renew Port Holdings.
As many as 18 condominium units and four storefronts would be built and the Harry’s building refaced and expanded to create a development that retains the traditional look of downtown along Franklin Street, with first-floor storefronts and upper-level condominiums.
The east side of the structure, which is primarily residential and takes advantage of the lake views, has a more modern look.
“I think it fits the location,” van den Broek told the Design Review Board Tuesday. “Even though it’s one building, it looks like three or four or five buildings. That’s what makes it fit downtown.”
The plan was approved by the Design Review Board Tuesday and will go to the Plan Commission for consideration Thursday, Dec. 20.
“It looks like a great project,” Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven, the board chairman, said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
“I like it,” board member and architect Brenda Fritsch added, noting that the design incorporates traditional elements and a stepped-back plan that help it blend with the downtown and prevent it from looking too massive for the space.
Van den Broek, who purchased the Harry’s property in 2009 and the bank property earlier this year, said the project meets three major goals — it adds vibrancy to the downtown by potentially bringing 18 families to live there; fits with the rest of the downtown; and is a sustainable development that adapts existing buildings to new uses while embracing green elements such as rooftop gardens.
“We’re bringing potentially 18 new families to live downtown, work downtown, shop downtown and support downtown,” van den Broek said. “We think this design will draw people in, not just to downtown but to the marina and lakefront.
“We feel the building belongs downtown.”
Architect Jorgen Hansen, a member of the board who did not vote on the matter, said the former M&I building will be joined to the Harry’s building by a new structure constructed in the space once used for the bank drive through.
Vertical elements will help break up the look of the structure, he said.
“On Franklin Street, there is already an established rhythm,” Hansen said, noting the buildings are generally 20 to 40 feet wide. “We want to re-establish that here. We want to create the same vertical elements you see elsewhere on Franklin Street.”
This “infill building,” he said, will be set 20 feet back from Franklin Street, creating a small public area in front where trees can be planted and tables and benches placed.
“We think it’ll be a great space,” Hansen said, noting it will be the only such pocket of green space on Franklin Street.
Setting the new building back allows the distinctive architecture of the former bank building to shine and defines the new structure as a separate entity, Hansen said.
Vehicles driving north on Franklin Street won’t get the sense of a massive building to the north because of this stepping, he added.
While the bank building’s facade will remain untouched, the Harry’s building will get a facelift, including a brick and stucco facade, columns on the street level and large cornice details near the roofline — as well as a third floor. Vertical elements will help break up the facade.
On the east side, a four-story addition housing 11 condominium units and an outdoor dining area will be constructed. The owners of Harry’s will have the opportunity to reconfigure the restaurant to take advantage of the lake views, van den Broek said.
The four floors that make up the east side addition will be stepped back from each other, decreasing the visual mass of the building, Hansen said.
Brick will be used for the exterior walls, he said, while those walls in the stepped back portions of the building will be lighter in color and faced with siding, further decreasing their impact.
The east-side addition will be defined at the south end by a tower behind the bank building that will contain rooms for condominium units on the second, third and fourth floors, conceal the elevator shaft and help define the development, van den Broek said.
The will also contain underground parking for the condominium units, Hansen said. Because the lot slopes, the developers will only have to go down about 4-1/2 feet to accommodate this.
On the rooftop, a small structure that won’t be visible from the street will be needed to allow residents access to the terraces and gardens there. Some of the units will have private access to the area, while others will have a shared entry, Hansen said.
Before the plan becomes reality, van den Broek must complete the purchase of 10 feet of city-owned land to the east of his properties — something agreed to in a development agreement approved by the city earlier this year — and receive a special exception from the Common Council to exceed the 35-foot height restriction in downtown.
Although the roofline varies across the project and the average height is about 45-1/2 feet, the tallest element will be the 48-foot-tall tower, Hansen said.
The addition to Harry’s, he noted, will be about the same height as the Wilson House across the street.
Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development, said that the 35-foot restriction allows for a special exception to be granted if a project’s design fits with the city’s vision for the area.
“A good project and design should drive the decision, not a number,” he said.
Hansen noted that he drafted a design for the Harry’s building that did not contain a third floor, but it just didn’t look right. Most storefronts on Franklin Street have a retail space on the first floor and two stories above.
Vanden Noven noted that before the bank’s drive-through was constructed, a 3-1/2-story building was behind Harry’s.
Van den Broek said that once the plan is approved, he will begin selling the units. He said he does not yet have costs for the units.
“We’ve created a very flexible design,” he said, noting residential units can be combined or stand alone, as can the commercial units.
The target market for the condominiums is broad because of that flexibility, van den Broek said, and includes young people, empty nesters, retirees and those looking for a second home.
“There are quite a few people we feel would be interested in this,” he said.
If all goes well, van den Broek said, construction could begin by next fall.
“Our intent is to have spades in the ground by October,” he said. “If all the stars align, the timeline could be next spring, but that is very aggressive. We’re thinking more like May to October is realistic.”
The project will probably be built all at once, not in phases, van den Broek added.
“That just makes the most sense,” he said, noting it minimizes the cost as well as the disruption to the downtown and to Harry’s.
Image Information: HARRY’S RESTAURANT WILL remain, but the facade of the building, as seen from the perspective of the intersection of Franklin and Main streets looking southeast, will be extensively changed and a third floor added as part of a ambitious reconstruction project proposed by developer Gertjan van den Broek. Also included in the plan is construction of a new building just south of the restaurant and renovations to the former M&I Bank (right).