Developer drops plans for Thiensville apartments
Resident discontent behind the decision

By Gary Achterberg - News Graphic Staff

Aug. 4, 2015

THIENSVILLE — Plans to build a 44-unit apartment project on the site of the old M&I Bank in downtown Thiensville have been scrapped.

Developer David Hoff told Village President Van Mobley in a letter last week that he and his firm “decided to discontinue our redevelopment plans” for the long-vacant property at Green Bay Road and Riverview Drive.

“This is personally and professionally disappointing to me and my wife Patricia, who would have been my partner in this project,” Hoff wrote. “Our goal is to find locations where our efforts are welcomed by the municipality and its constituents.”

A standing-room-only crowd of residents, many neighbors along Riverview Drive, opposed the project during a public hearing July 21. They argued that the $6.5 million project was too big for the 1.55acre bank site, which has been vacant since 2007.

Many who spoke at Village Hall said they admired the condominiums Hoff developed on the old shoe factory site along Elm Street west of Village Hall about a decade ago. Some said a similar development on the bank site would be viable and acceptable.

As that public hearing and meeting of the village’s Plan Commission wound to a close, Mobley encouraged the Fox Point developer to at least consider whether a condominium development with about 20 units would be feasible. Hoff said he would do some calculations and get back to the Village Board. About a week later, he withdrew his proposal.

“Our vision was to replace the existing vacant commercial building with a new high-end multifamily housing project, which we believe would be a significant benefit to the village and surrounding property owners,” Hoff wrote. “The influx of affluent renters and the introduction of an attractive new row-house-style project would have enhanced your vibrant community by increasing patronage to the downtown retail and service providers, which in turn should lead to additional higher-quality developments – both commercial and residential.

“We felt our proposal supported this vision,” he wrote, adding later, “Unfortunately, some of the constituents of the village did not share in this vision and spoke out against our project.”

Rents for the apartments would have ranged from $1,100 a month for a one-bedroom to about $2,000 a month for a three-bedroom townhome.

Mobley called Hoff “a wonderful developer” and said he hopes the village maintains a relationship with him.

“I’m disappointed that he’s disappointed, but I’m optimistic about Mr. Hoff and the village of Thiensville going forward,” Mobley said. “I’ve encouraged him to maintain his interest in the village.”

Hoff suggested in his letter that the village consider the public’s comments related to establishing a redevelopment plan for the Green Bay Road corridor “to help guide the next round of proposals for this and other nearby sites.”

Mobley said such a discussion will begin at the Village Board’s Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday, which started after the News Graphic’s deadline.

“We’ll try to hammer out a vision that everybody can like and embrace,” he said. “We’re going to have further discussion on the way toward having a shared vision.”

It is possible that whatever is developed on that site could receive some assistance from a tax incremental financing district. Hoff was looking at a package that would have paid him back about $1.2 million over 16 years from additional property taxes generated by the project.

Mobley said it’s important for the village to be realistic about what is possible for the M&I site.

“We’ll keep talking and get something that works,” he said. “There’s no rush; the village doesn’t face any imperatives.”

Gary Achterberg can be reached at .