Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm
Wednesday, 18 August 2010 18:35
If company fails to comply with order, judge says he will appoint receiver or have structure razed
Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Tom Wolfgram on Aug. 9 gave Port Harbor Investments 45 days to repair the former M&I Bank building in downtown Port Washington.
If repairs are not made by Sept. 23, Wolfgram said, he would appoint a receiver to manage the building or order the building razed, City Attorney Eric Eberhardt said.
The hearing came after the investment firm failed to repair the dilapidated building at 122 N. Franklin St. by July 16, as it had agreed to do in a stipulation signed by the company and city officials.
City Administrator Mark Grams said that while the firm’s lack of progress on the repairs is frustrating, Wolfgram’s order is promising.
“The good thing is if the work doesn’t get done, there is a definite end in sight when the judge will appoint a receiver,” he said.
A receiver is an impartial person or entity who would be accountable to the court, not the building owner, Eberhardt explained. The receiver would be responsible for determining how feasible building repairs are and to either have them made or seek a raze order. With the court’s permission, he could also sell the structure.
The receiver could be paid by the building owner or, if the building is sold, from the proceeds of the sale, Eberhardt said.
Port Harbor Investments burst onto the scene in late 2007 when it purchased the former bank and announced sweeping plans for a multi-million-dollar development that was to encompass not only that building but several other prominent downtown buildings.
The firm planned to raze the former bank and construct a new structure that featured some of the architectural elements of the existing building.
However, the firm has been unable to complete any of its other planned real-estate purchases and early renovation attempts left the bank building in shambles.
After numerous complaints from downtown businesses and residents, officials called for the building to be repaired, saying the structure had become an eyesore and safety hazard.
On Nov. 6, 2008, the city building inspector mailed the development firm a notice of zoning code and municipal code violations, ordering it to make repairs within 30 days.
Despite the fact the deadline was extended and the firm obtained a building permit for the work, the repairs were never made, the suit states.
The building was in such bad shape that the city was forced to make some exterior repairs after pieces of mortar, brick and other debris began falling from the structure in June of 2009, the lawsuit noted. The firm had been ordered to make these emergency repairs but failed to do so.
In October of 2009, the city filed its lawsuit.
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm
Wednesday, 11 August 2010 18:20
Some Port officials say surveillance vehicle could help stem downtown vandalism but others worry about privacy
The Port Washington Police Department is considering borrowing a mobile camera unit from Ozaukee County to monitor downtown streets and prevent vandalism, including the destruction of trees, the Police and Fire Commission was told Monday.
But not everyone is sold on the idea.
“It feels so Big Brother,” commission member Gina Taucher said. “How much more effective would that be than increased patrols?”
The department does not have the manpower to provide increased patrols, officials said.
“It (the surveillance unit) is not the whole answer,” Captain Mike Keller said. “It’s a tool and it may help. It can be a deterrent.”
Commission Chairman Rick Nelson said the nighttime bike patrols have also helped deter vandalism.
“The downtown patrol has been a huge help,” he said.
City officials and representatives of the Main Street Program have said they, too, are ready to consider installing a surveillance camera in downtown because of the amount of vandalism.
One of the most visible examples is the destruction of at least seven trees planted along Franklin Street since the road was rebuilt in 2008.
A month ago, two ginkgo trees had to be replaced after they were snapped by vandals.
A week after that, two people were cited for trying to destroy trees in downtown.
Nelson noted that downtown merchants looked into the concept of downtown surveillance cameras two years ago after a spate of vandalism, but nothing was done.
“The business district was not supportive of the idea then,” he said.
But cameras have become less intrusive and more common since that time, Nelson said.
Many communities require new businesses to install security cameras, he said, whether people realize they are there or not.
“There’s always that fine line, are we going to be perceived as Big Brother watching everything?” he said. “We don’t want that.”
Using the county’s camera unit to monitor downtown at select times may be one way to combat vandalism, Nelson said.
On Fish Day, the police used the pole-mounted surveillance camera system recently acquired by the Ozaukee County Emergency Government Department to monitor the downtown, he noted.
The system, which has a number of cameras that can provide a 360-degree view, can be remotely monitored.
“They were pretty impressive in what you can see and do with them,” Nelson said of the pictures obtained by the unit.
Police Chief Richard Thomas is looking into how often the city could use the vehicle to remotely monitor downtown, Keller said.
No matter what the city does downtown, Nelson said, officials must be sure the business community will support it.
The commission is expected to continue its discussion of cameras downtown when it meets next month.
OZAUIKEE COUNTY’S recently acquired surveillance vehicle may be used to stem vandalism in downtown Port Washington, but some officials have expressed concerns about privacy rights. Press file photo
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 04 August 2010 18:39
Family’s history buff seeks information on early years of business that became landmark in downtown Port
Lloyd Smith, whose surname is synonymous with downtown Port Washington, is looking for information about his family’s famous restaurant at the corner of Grand Avenue and Franklin Street.
He’s writing a history of the business, and is seeking information on the expansion of the restaurant’s early dining rooms.
Specifically, he’s looking for information on when each of its six dining rooms was added.
“Although it is a very long shot, I am trying to contact anyone still alive who may have worked there between 1934 and 1940 or who can answer any part of the question,” he said. “I have ideas, but nothing solid. Today, there is no family member alive who can answer that question.”
Smith, a history buff, is working to ensure the landmark Port Washington business is not forgotten. He is writing a history of the business for a Web site maintained by Lincoln Smith’s son Brian.
“It’s a collection of all sorts of things Smith,” he said. He’s already done a history of the Harborside Motel — today the Holiday Inn Harborview — which the family built in 1973, and edited the memoirs of Evelyn Smith, who started the family restaurant.
“This is my last project, the restaurant,” Smith said.
The history will not only include a chronology of the restaurant but a collection of factors that led to its successes and struggles, Smith said.
Among the factors that hurt the business were decisions to route Highway 141 and later I-43 along the outskirts of Port Washington, shuttling traffic away from downtown Port.
“That really hurt us,” Smith said.
The steady increase in fish and seafood prices were also tough on the business, he said, noting that for decades fish was much less expensive than meat.
“We prided ourselves in having meals cheaper than the Port Hotel,” which was known for its steak dinners, he said.
Smith Bros. restaurant has its roots in 1924 when, after a week of rain, a cloudburst forced the already swollen Sauk Creek over its banks. The fishing shanties that lined the west slip were washed away.
Within days, an old harness shop at the corner of Franklin Street and Grand Avenue was rented and converted into a fish market. Soon, Evelyn Smith installed a fryer and began cooking fish to sell.
During a skat tournament, a man suggested the fried fish be made into sandwiches that would be easy to eat while playing cards. The sandwich was an immediate success.
By 1934, the family bought a neighboring fruit market and set up a counter and three tables there.
During its first six years, the restaurant grew from 18 seats to 250 seats in six dining rooms.
“Each time there was a new dining room, they had to redo the kitchen,” Smith said, noting that by 1940 the restaurant encompassed five buildings and had 13 fryers.
The restaurant, which was on Highway 32, was ideally located for success, he said.
In 1934, the 200-mile trip from Chicago to Door County took one day.
“You’d start out in the morning and halfway through, in Port Washington, you would stop for lunch,” he said. “Highway 32 took traffic right past our door.”
In November 1953, a fire destroyed the restaurant, leaving only the market and bar unscathed.
The family rebuilt the restaurant. The next major structural change occurred in 1982, when the Harbor Room on the east side of the building was constructed.
In 1988, Joe DeRosa purchased Smith Bros. Restaurant. He added a second-floor open-air dining area in 1991.
The business was purchased by the William Goldammer family in 1997. They, too, renovated the restaurant after a fire in 2001.
Lighthouse Development bought the business in 2005 and spent the next year renovating the building, which they dubbed Smith Bros. Marketplace. It is currently occupied by a coffeehouse, but the bulk of the first floor is vacant. The second floor is being renovated for the headquarters of Franklin Energy.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 28 July 2010 18:00
Port Safety Committee backs plan to remove some meters, designate areas for permits, two-hour use
Changes to two parking lots on Port Washington’s lakefront were recommended Tuesday by the Traffic Safety Committee.
The parking meters should be removed from the lot at the north end of the north slip, the committee recommended.
The northern row of parking places should be designated for two-hour parking, the committee said, and the southern row for permit parking from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and two-hour parking at other times.
The permit parking is largely intended for employees of Franklin Energy, which is moving into the nearby Smith Bros. Marketplace building, City Administrator Mark Grams said.
However, he added, anyone with a permit would be able to park there.
Right now, Grams said, the lot is seldom used except on weekends, when fishermen park there.
Because it is seldom used, the city should not impose a two-hour limit on the northern parking aisle but instead allow unrestricted parking there to encourage people to use the lot, Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven, the committee chairman, said.
“I wouldn’t restrict parking until the parking lot is overflowing with cars,” he said. “I’d rather have it unrestricted and restrict it later if needed.”
Restricting parking in the future would be difficult, Grams said.
“Then you’re going to get this whole room full of people screaming because you’re taking away their unrestricted parking,” he said.
The owners of the Port Shopping Center, which is next to the lot, have also requested the city designate the area for two-hour parking, Grams said.
“They said they can’t get a tenant because there’s not enough parking on-site,” he said. “Eventually, the shopping center’s going to need it.”
But Vanden Noven noted that Port Main Street is working on parking lot improvements, including configuring the shopping center’s lot for two-way traffic — something the owners are resisting.
“We need to get their cooperation,” he said. “Maybe this should be part of an overall parking package instead of something we do piecemeal.”
Ald. Dan Becker, a member of the committee, said two-hour parking would be consistent with the restrictions elsewhere in downtown.
“The two-hour parking would be an improvement over the meters. People avoid them like the plague,” he said.
The committee also recommended designating five stalls in the lot behind Smith Bros. Marketplace and Harry’s Restaurant for 30-minute parking from April to November.
The stalls, which are in the far northeastern corner near the Main Street cul-de-sac, are intended to be used by charter fishermen and their clients when they load and unload supplies, Grams said.
The 30-minutes parking was requested by charter boat captains and recommended by the Harbor Commission, he said.
“Anyone can still park there. You just can’t park there for more than 30 minutes,” Grams said. “At Dockside Deli, that’s probably enough time for people to run in and pick up lunch.”
The Common Council is expected to review both recommendations when it meets Tuesday, Aug. 3, and act on them at its Tuesday, Aug. 17, meeting.