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Mandel, Bay reviewing options for Consaul Commons

Cost will likely drive design choice

April 16, 2013

Whitefish Bay - Village officials and representatives from developer Mandel Group are considering a number of design alternatives to the open space between the Fox Bay theater building and next door Garrison building, commonly referred to as Consaul Commons.

At the Village Board meeting Monday, representatives from the Mandel Group, who will soon break ground on the upscale apartment complex above the municipal lots at Beaumont Avenue and Consaul Place, presented a series of designs meant to open up the space and facilitate outdoor dining for the two businesses that front the commons.

The Mandel Group's apartment project includes approximately $100,000 for a "status quo" update of the space, explained Mandel Senior Vice President Richard Lincoln. That plan, like the other three presented, removes the curb and hedgerows along the edges of the commons, widening the available area for pedestrians and outdoor diners.

Currently, Consaul Commons has an ovular grassy area with three honey locust trees. The three other plans range in the amount of grassy space which would be covered over with concrete to increase pedestrian and public space. While cost estimates aren't available for the more concrete-centric plans, Lincoln commented that they would be costlier than the "status quo" update, and would require the village to kick in.

"We'd have to have a conversation about how that would be presumably paid for by the village," said Lincoln, noting that the area does fall within two of Whitefish Bay's tax incremental financing districts.

For the most part, trustees seemed supportive of the Consaul Commons designs, but said the two most important considerations will be the potential cost and whether to remove the existing honey locust trees, which Village Manger Patrick DeGrave described as a "messy" sort of tree that litter the area with lots of twigs and leaves.

"They drop a lot of stuff," DeGrave said. "It's not conducive to outdoor dining."

The honey locusts' shallow root system, said DeGrave, also ends up killing most of the grass around them during the summer months.

Trustee Jay Miller said he would favor the options which retained more of the original green space.

"I'd feel more strongly that there's some ground surface there," Miller said, "that it's not all taken away."

Ultimately the decision hinges on cost, Trustee Lauri Rollings said.

"It'll really boil down to what we're asked to spend on it," Rollings said.

Lincoln said the Mandel Group will return with cost estimates for the other designs, and that construction on the commons likely won't begin until later this year or early next year.

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