FOX POINT - The old Dunwood School property has been rezoned to allow The Mandel Group to build four buildings containing 105 luxury apartment units.
The Fox Point Village Board unanimously voted on Tuesday, June 14, to rezone the 9-acre lot at 217 W. Dunwood Road to allow for the apartments, which will have underground parking, as well as a community clubhouse.
Monthly rent at the apartment buildings will range from $1,550 for a one-bedroom unit to $3,200 for a three-bedroom unit.
The rezoning approval was the last major governmental hurdle needed from the village of Fox Point, but other approvals such as a developer's agreement and permits still need to be worked out.
The Mandel Group expects to demolish the blighted and deteriorating Dunwood School building this fall. Construction on the apartments would begin in spring, and the first units would be available in spring 2019.
All four apartment buildings will be set back at least 100 feet from Dunwood Road. None of the traffic coming in or out of the development will use Dunwood Road and will instead use a new street off Port Washington Road,
The Mandel Group plans to create a walking trail that will run throughout the apartment community and connect to a newly-created park on Dunwood Road.
Just south of the park will be a new clubhouse featuring an 800-square-foot community room available for civic groups. The clubhouse will also feature a small outdoor pool or splash pad, as well as a fitness center, kitchen, outdoor patios, grilling centers and full-time leasing and maintenance staff.
Trustee Eric Fonstad said he received many more letters from those supporting the project than from those opposed to the project. Trustee Bill Kravit said the developer took great care to address the concerns of residents in several group and one-on-one meetings.
Still, the rezoning approval did not come without several passionate pleas from nearby homeowners concerned about turning a long-vacant lot into an apartment community.
Jess Langerman said he moved from Chicago back to his hometown of Fox Point because of the community's charm, which he said does not include 105 luxury apartments.
"I don't think it's going to attract people to this community. I think it will actually have the reverse effect," he said. "I think with this vote we are at a very integral point in the future of our community."
On the other side of the issue, resident Elizabeth Aelion said apartments are nothing new to Fox Point, which has several apartment buildings on Port Washington Road.
"I agree there are some concerns, but I feel like people are making this out to be like the devil incarnate is landing on Port Washington Road," she said.
Ian Martin, The Mandel Group's vice president of development, has made many modifications to the development proposal since the Fox Point-Bayside School District accepted Mandel's offer in March 2016. He said he thinks most of the remaining concerns are related to the fear of the unknown.
"I think the reality is that me showing up triggered that conversation," he said. "Why it didn't happen for 25 years while the school was shuttered, I don't know."
In addition to the apartment buildings and the clubhouse, the Mandel Group also plans to build an 80-unit senior living facility on a 3-acre lot near the intersection of Dunwood and Port Washington roads. The developer does not need rezoning approval for that land, as the institutional zoning on that property allows for senior living centers.
Plans for the senior living center have not yet been submitted to the village, but they will eventually need to be approved by the village's building board.
The Mandel Group has not selected a senior living company to operate the facility, but Martin said he has received three letters of intent to purchase the property.
Details like the height of the building and whether underground parking could be added were left undefined by Martin, who said he did not want to presume the needs of the future assisted living operator.
Mohawk Road resident Paul Schwartz, as well as several village trustees, said they thought details of the senior living center should have been tied to the apartment rezoning proposal.
"To vote today to allow those changes without that fundamental knowledge, I think, is doing a disservice to this village," Schwartz said.
The senior living facility would be shielded from the neighborhood by 3-foot-high berms topped with opaque shrubbery and evergreen trees.
Resident Michelle Rifkin was concerned the senior living facility could eventually be shifted into low-income or subsidized group housing. She also asked the village to give her a $10,000 landscaping credit for a berm on her property buffering her home from the senior living facility.
Martin said a number of private and public controls will be put in place to make sure the senior living center meets the standards of the community. He also said it is in Mandel's best interest to have a quality facility next to the four apartment buildings.
"We don't make a $28 million at-risk investment unless we are very confident it will be successful," he said. "Part of being successful is making sure that what sits next to it is attractive."
Dunwood School has not been used for educational purposes since 1992. The Fox Point-Bayside School District agreed to sell the 62-year-old Dunwood School building to The Mandel Group for a price that will not be released by either party until a development agreement is in place and the deal has closed.
North Shore Now reported last week that The Mandel Group made a $3.7 million offer on the property last year. The sale agreement has since been amended. Martin declined to release the new sale price at the village board meeting, but said the new purchase price is less than the reported $3.7 million.