Officials: Not German enough
North Shore Bank proposal meets with pushback over construction design

By McLean Bennett

July 10, 2019

 A rendering of what a proposed North Shore Bank could look like along Germantown’s Mequon Road and included in village Plan Commission filings this week.
Submitted rendering

GERMANTOWN — The village’s busy main thoroughfare could be in line for a new bank someday. But first, it’ll have to pass design muster.

Developers behind the proposal to plant a North Shore Bank in the parking lot of the Sendik’s Village Centre along Germantown’s Mequon Road got a conditional green light to move forward from Plan Commission members this week.

But the conditions could mean — among other things — reworking the architecture of a decidedly un-German-looking building that could set up shop in the village’s so-called “Germanic Theme” corridor.

Commissioners agreed to recommend Village Board members give their own conditional approval to a new planned development district and certified survey map — zoning-related steps that would be needed to help set construction efforts for the bank project in motion.

But detailed site and design plans still need approval, and planning leaders cautioned the modern-looking bank — which, as designed Monday, would feature a concave, pitched roof and a heavily glassed facade — could meet with resistance.

That’s because the proposed location falls within what’s known as Germantown’s Germanic Theme corridor — about a two-mile stretch of Mequon Road where village planners have tried tailoring  The village’s planning and zoning administrator explained the guidelines aren’t written into Germantown’s municipal code, though Jeff Retzlaff noted Plan Commission members have long held builders to the Germany-centric standards.

Those standards have left a clear imprint on the area. A McDonald’s near where the proposed North Shore Bank would go looks more like a Bavarian chateau than a fast food joint. And a stretch of other nearby retailers bears ubiquitous timber-framed facades that wouldn’t look out of place in Munich.

“There is kind of a pattern established along that corridor,” Commissioner Anthony Laszewski said of the bank proposal. “I don’t see it here.”

  Building guidelines along what’s known as the “Germanic Theme” corridor in Germantown have kept structures — like this McDonald’s restaurant — tailored to look like German-styled buildings.
McLean Bennett/Daily News Staff

Commissioner William Shadid agreed, noting other retailers along that stretch of Mequon Road had designed their own facilities to meet village requirements. And he pointed to chain retailers he’d visited in other parts of the country where he said designers had stretched corporate brands to fit local design specifications.

“I don’t think we’re asking too much,” Shadid said.

A project management official who spoke at Monday’s Plan Commission meeting said architects had sought to use materials that would fit the local design requirements. But commissioners noted they were having a hard time digesting the modern-looking structure and suggested additional tweaks — like lintels or other window treatments — that would better fit the area’s theme.

Commissioners ultimately agreed to recommend Village Board approval of the zoning measures, but not without a few conditions — including that the architectural renderings come back with some adjustments.

“You’ve got to be more Germanic than what we have here,” David Baum, a member of both the Village Board and Plan Commission, told developers Monday.

The recommendation would also call for increased landscaping near the bank.

“It’s all the flavor of the Plan Commission,” Eric Neumann, a representative for the firm managing the bank project and who spoke at Monday’s meeting, said after commissioners’ votes. “There’s other groups that would love what we did. The group here doesn’t, so we’ve got to come up with something they’re going to like.”

Greg Devorkin, the developer behind the project, said the bank would enhance the area and help facilitate economic growth. He noted designers could make tweaks to the proposal, and he was ultimately optimistic the plans would meet with Village Board approval.

The proposal initially raised questions about parking availability in the Sendik’s Village Centre, given the proposed 2,250-square-foot bank would overlay part of the retail outlet’s parking lot. But discussions Monday indicated the issue likely wouldn’t be a concern and the bank would still leave enough parking stalls in the area.