Residents oppose commercial development at Prospect Hill School site in New Berlin
Speak out during second meeting about proposal Tuesday night

By Hannah Weikel - Freeman Staff

Feb. 1, 2018

 The former Prospect Hill School in New Berlin could be redeveloped if plans are approved.
Katherine Michalets/Freeman Staff

NEW BERLIN — The City Hall Council Chambers were nearly full Tuesday evening as roughly 75 residents crammed inside to hear about a proposal to raze Prospect Hill Elementary School and build self-storage and business condominiums in its place.

The majority of residents who spoke at the meeting — invited because their homes are near the vacant property — were strongly against an industrial development, said Mayor Dave Ament on Wednesday.

“I think the biggest thing was that they were concerned this could create a business park,” Ament said. “They didn’t like the density, there were too many units, and they were uncomfortable that the questions and answers were vague at this point about where the entrance would be.”

Ament stressed at Tuesday’s hour-and-a-half-long meeting that the idea and renderings were strictly conceptual and the developer — Mike Frede, who owns VentureSpace LLC — would still have to go through a formal application process before anything is finalized.

“I wanted to make sure the neighbors knew this guy was serious,” Ament said.

Tuesday was the second time Frede was invited to talk to residents about his vision for the abandoned parcel sandwiched between Racine Avenue and National Avenue.

Frede said the second meeting wasn’t much different from the first, which was about a year ago. He had heard from city officials that residents were concerned about the development proposed for the parcel, which he bought just over a month ago.

Still, despite an outspoken crowd bemoaning the proposed changes at the meetings, Frede said several residents called or emailed him Wednesday to voice their support for the development.

The next step is to get feedback from the city based on what was gleaned from Tuesday’s meeting, he said.

“Whether, at this point, are they supportive of us continuing the process or are they against it,” Frede said of city officials. “If they are against it, it won’t go any further. If they are supportive, we will look to adjusting the concept and have another public meeting.”

Frede said he plans to sell the property if New Berlin officials are against his concept.

When asked how the city stands, Ament said they are “neutral” because there isn’t an official proposal yet.

“We don’t know how many units they’re talking, we don’t know about the entrances, we don’t know about traffic impact,” he said. “We do know that the vast majority of the people at the meeting (Tuesday) and the one about a year ago do not like the idea for a lot of reasons and they are the ones that would have to live with it.”