Finding downtown Mukwonago's feel
Grand Avenue house symbolizes friction between new development, older properties

By Brandon Anderegg - Freeman Staff

Oct. 2, 2017

Downtown Mukwonago just off the intersection of Atkinson and Rochester.
Submitted photo


MUKWONAGO — The Colonial Revival house at 200 Grand Ave. has become a hot button issue in Mukwonago as residents contemplate the future of the more than 100-year-old home that may be torn down or redeveloped.

The house, which has been referred to by some as the “Dr. Laurel E. Youmans Residence,” was not only the Youmans family’s home in the early 1900s but also the location of the family-run business, a physician’s office, according to the 2001 Historical/Architectural Resources Survey. Albert Grutzmacher, a local carpenter and contractor who built the home, also helped construct Ten Chimneys in Genesee Depot, according to the survey.

In November, the 1892 home was purchased by Ulrich Jentzch, a developer who lived in the Mukwonago area for 20 years. Jentzch said he would like to develop the property and has floated ideas such as condos, a restaurant or a doctor’s office.

“The interest that we’re getting right now is not for a restaurant but more an office or condos,” said Jentzch. “Some kind of professional building or retail office is best suited.”

In fact, an artist’s concept of what the eight condos might look like is listed on RE/MAX under the home’s address. Nonetheless, Jentzch said the listing is only a way for him to gauge investor and buyer interest and it is by no means a final rendering of the condos.
 

Balancing development

While the home holds historical and architectural significance, it is also a symbol of a far greater problem that the community faces, balancing the public good against the private rights of property owners. In other words, the home represents the point of friction at the fault line of new development and older properties.

John Weidl, village administrator and director of economic development, said several community members are concerned that the downtown area will lose its “feel” if too many older buildings are demolished. Roger Walsh, a Mukwonago resident, said though the home is not historical in the legal sense, it is a community landmark. While Walsh said he would prefer to save the home, he understands that the home has some issues with coding.

“I think it would be an asset to the community because of the dwindling inventory of the downtown,” said Walsh. “These are complicated issues that don’t have an easy answer.”

No official plan for renovation or development has been submitted to village staff, Jenztch said. Weidl said that under the rules of the downtown overlay zoning district, the condos would most likely fall under a “permitted use.” In other words, Weidl is suggesting that condos or an office space could be approved, but certainly not without the public’s knowledge, nor without going through the Plan Commission and Village Board.

The Youmans Residence on 200 Grand Ave. in Mukwonago.
Submitted photo

Home’s issues

Unfortunately, the home has racked up a $30,000 bill for the developer to identify areas with asbestos, lead paint as well as petroleum contaminated soil from the gas station that predates Walgreens, said Jentzch. In addition, some staircases in the home are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), said Weidl.

Moreover, the trusses that hold up the roof are charred from a previous fire. However, these trusses are accompanied by “sistered” trusses that help maintain the structure’s integrity. Jentzch said he has explored renovating the home. However, the state of the Youmans residence has left him questioning whether that is feasible.

“It’s a great idea but financially it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work,” said Jentzch. “I want to make sure what’s best for the community, what’s best for downtown and what’s best for myself as an investor.”
 

Downtown planning committee formed

Weidl said village staff have also explored renovation, including consulting with experts for opinions on the structural integrity and cost. The findings were forwarded to the Village Board; however, the board declined to get involved and instead waited on the recommendations of the “Downtown Strategic Plan Steering Committee” — a committee recently commissioned by the Village Board to involve the community in the decision- making process that will shape the future of downtown Mukwonago.

Weidl said the DSPSC is comprised of village officials, the chamber, central area business owners and property owners as well as other interested citizens. The committee, which has branded their community engagement efforts as “Make Downtown Yours,” will address topics like re-routing Highway 83, the future of the Youmans residence and finding a design plan for downtown.

DSPSC meeting are held every second and fourth Thursday of the month. To find more information about “Make Downtown Yours,” visit http://mukwonagodowntown.com/ or its Facebook page,
https://business.facebook.com/MukwonagoDowntown/.

Email: banderegg@conleynet.com