Student complex planner says project will return to Whitewater

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Kevin Hoffman
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
— Developers for a proposed student housing complex bordering UW-Whitewater's campus say the project still is alive, despite the planning commission's decision to not grant them proper zoning.

Matthew Burow, owner of Catalyst Construction in Milwaukee and one of the project leaders, said the next step is to re-educate residents about The Element—a four-story, 108-student housing complex planned at Florence and Prince streets.

Some homeowners and landlords urged the planning commission earlier this month not to rezone the property to allow for high-density development. Attorneys for DLK Enterprises and Whitewater Rental Association said it would be unfair to property managers who face tougher regulations under their normal zoning.

"We're going to go forward," Burow said. "The project does so much for the community. I still believe what we proposed is the right product for that market."

One option for Burow is to alter the plans to fall within the guidelines of the current zoning. But Burow said that would be difficult and would force developers to build "just another apartment building."

The Element was supposed to be something different, acting as transitional housing between dormitories and private rentals. It would have included common areas, four-bedroom furnished apartments and an on-site manager similar to resident assistants on campus.

Starin Hall, UW-Whitewater's suite-style dormitory that opened this fall, already offers the same amenities. It houses more than 400 students but had three times as many apply for a room, which Burow said indicates there's a greater demand.

The university had more than 4,100 students on campus this fall—about 400 over capacity.

"I think if more people in the community understand what we're doing, there would be more support for the project," Burow said. "I know the students are disappointed."

Parking seemed to be the major concern among critics. The Element would have included 81 parking stalls for the 108 students, which other landlords said was far too few.

When the plan was introduced six months ago, it included underground parking, but that idea has since been scrapped.

Burow said he didn't want to change the existing blueprint, but he expects to host additional informational sessions in the near future to try and sway residents.

The Whitewater Common Council still would need to amend its comprehensive plan for the land use. The council supported it in September before the planning commission rejected the zoning change.

Last updated: 3:43 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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