Facade grant for Colectivo sparks debate

BY KATIE EDER–

The Shorewood village board gave a facade grant of $103,000 to the owners of Colectivo in order to renovate the former Verizon building into a new burger and ice cream restaurant.

“It will bring people together,” said Tammy Bockhorst, village trustee. “It is centrally located, and it fits so many needs and wants of the people in our village, so I was excited that they brought this proposal and for the project.”

Colectivo is planning on making an $800,000 investment in the new building. The money will go into a complete remodel of the building including installing glass garage doors and a wrap-around patio.   

“The project is a really expensive project, and so we were way over budget,” said Paul Miller, Colectivo co-owner. “The village made us aware that [the grant] was available … The grant helps us finish the project with the original vision of what we wanted to do.”

The village facade grant program gives funds up to $25,000 dollars, but exceptions have been made in the past. In order for an exception to be made, a proposal must be made and presented to and voted on by both the Community Development Authority Board and the village board.

$100,000 is just too much. It’s out of line,” said Davida Amenta, village trustee. “I would have suppored $25,000 but certainly not $100,000 … I am very conservative when it comes to handing money to a private entity, and I need to ask myself, what is the public benefit? What is the public good that we’re doing here? In this particular case, this is a great project; I think it will be fun … but is it going to create great revitalization in that area of downtown Shorewood? I don’t think so.”

Milwaukee county has a cap on facade grants of $5,000, and Whitefish Bay has a cap of $7,500.

colectivo
(Olivia Loomis) 4144 Oakland remains empty, awaiting redevelopment by Colectivo. The village gave a grant of #103,000 to Colectivo to redo the facade of the former Verizon building.

“These are not supposed to be large amounts of money; it’s in their definition. It’s facade improvement,” said Calli Spheeris, resident. “The objection is not the building itself. It’s a cute little building …  I think their building fits in very nicely, but it’s the way it’s being financed which is the problem.”

According to Bockhorst, this restaurant fits well in the 2025 vision of the village.

“I voted that it fits the requirement,” Bockhorst said. “As a board member, this a business that’s coming and the investments that the organization is making in the existing Verizon building are beneficial … This grant will basically pay for itself in tax revenue. But the bigger issue is that this has a public benefit. That is hard to argue. What is being proposed as a burger and ice cream and also a pocket park, is something that the community needs and the community wants.”

The facade grants are used for front facing work that improves the public view of a storefront.

“In most places they’re used to improve the look of a building, only the part facing the public,” Amenta said. “In Shorewood we use them a little more liberally. We would use them for landscaping, for example, or signs or awnings … They are not need-based. If you own or rent a building, you will probably get it.”

According to Spheeris, the grant proposal did not fit the correct criteria for the facade fund.

“It’s not that we shouldn’t have development. It’s the unrestricted nature of it,” Spheeris said. “They were asking for the wrong type of grant … That’s basically my objection to this. It’s not that they shouldn’t get money, but that it should be done in the correct way, not the easy way of stretching the rules.”

Colectivo will be leasing the Verizon location, which is predicted to raise the value of location from about $400,000 to $721,600.

“The grants were available,” said Paul Miller, Colectivo co-owner. “There are probably people who disagree with the village’s plan, but I don’t disagree with it. I think that the course of Oakland Avenue is really positive, and I think our project is an example of that.”

Amenta and Donna Whittle, resident, both agreed that the policy of the village board is the problem.

“To me the whole policy doesn’t make sense,” Amenta said. “We need a new direction when it comes to economic development.”

“It’s difficult to see there being concern linked to the name of Colectivo because I recognize that they have done so much for our village, and I appreciate what they do bring to village,” Whittle said.

“I think we need to be very sensitive to that. That they are not the first people to get this kind of money, and they are not the issue. It is the policy that is the issue, and they just played by the rules that everyone else played by.”

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