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FOX POINT - The Mandel Group's proposed Dunwood Commons development at the former Dunwood School property cleared its first governmental hurdle with the approval of the Fox Point Building Board on Friday, March 31.

The scope of the board's authority was limited to the size, quality and architectural design of the community clubhouse and four apartment buildings. The board was tasked with determining whether the buildings will be compatible with the general character of the village and specifically within the surrounding neighborhood.

In addition to the apartments and clubhouse buildings, the Mandel Group also plans to build a 80-unit memory care facility at the northwest corner of the site, 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 assisted living centers. Several residents near Dunwood Road did ask questions about how the memory care facility would be shielded from the neighborhood, to which Ian Martin, the Mandel Group's vice president of development, said there will be 3-foot-high berms topped with opaque evergreen trees.

The bulk of the board's discussion concerned the four apartment buildings, which will feature 105 units and underground parking. The two buildings closest to Dunwood Road will be two stories, while the buildings on the south end of the site will be three stories. The two-story buildings will be positioned 100 feet away from Dunwood Road.

"We've tried very hard with architectural design to produce a handsome residential scale project here that is very sensitive to the conditions of the neighborhood and tries as much as possible to provide ample green space along Dunwood Road," said James Shields, the architect on the project.

The two-story buildings have gabled roofs that peak at 35 feet, and the three-story buildings have flat roofs that also meet the village's 35-foot height requirement. Although the buildings themselves are long, Shields used multiple gabled roofs and varying elevations to break up the long building into the appearance of multiple cottages.

"I call them embedded cottages or embedded houses," Shields said. "We’re using these elements to break down the scale of the apartment building and make it look like there are a series of  identifiable conventional houses."

The apartments, which are inspired by the architectural style of English arts and crafts, feature reddish-brown shingles, which Shields said is common in the neighborhood. The siding of the buildings consists of a mix of grey clapboard and off-white stone. The buildings will have large, floor-to-ceiling windows. Rent at the apartment buildings will range from $1,550 for a one-bedroom unit to $3,200 for a three-bedroom unit.

The Mandel Group has been working on the Dunwood Commons project for a year, holding several neighborhood, small group and one-on-one meetings. Five residents spoke at the meeting, including Mohawk Road resident Michele Rifkin, who said she doesn't like the large size of the clubhouse, which she doesn't think will be used. She also thinks the buildings should be limited to two stories tall.

"I would like to see you not accept three stories," she said. "You can't compare it with buildings on Port Washington Road because everything is empty, destitute, for lease and for rent."

The building board unanimously approved the project, agreeing that the size, quality and architectural design of the buildings would be compatible with the surrounding neighborhood. The public will be invited to weigh in on the project at a public hearing in front of the plan commission at a date yet to be determined. If the project is approved by the plan commission and village board, it would return to the building board for further approvals.

"I think they’ve exceeded the requirements," said building board member Justin Racinowski. "I think they’ve done a good job of listening to the community and addressing their concerns."

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