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Village Officials Seek Senior-Living Proposals For Riverbrook Site

Senior-living developments would fare well on East Capitol Drive, while parcels farther south could be developed later into other housing options, officials say.

Hoping to receive a myriad of proposals for developing the land near the old Riverbrook Restaurant, village officials have determined a working ideal: Construct senior living along East Capitol Drive as soon as possible, and save the back portion for more profitable housing when the market improves.

Village Manager Chris Swartz led two focus group meetings in June to discuss options for the 6.9 acres of undeveloped land dubbed the “Milwaukee River Site.”

Though the site is split between owners including two parcels owned by Sunrise Development, including the old Pig 'n Whistle at 1111 E. Capitol Dr., and another by Milwaukee PC owner James Petr, both land owners are eager to sell their land.

As all parcels currently have strictly specialized zoning requirements, any development proposals would likely have to be approved by the village for a Planned Development District, allowing for unique zoning changes. 

Village officials hope to take this opportunity to develop a long-term plan for the whole area, and accept proposals accordingly, though the parcels could be bought and developed separately.

“The optimum development would coordinate all three of the parcels,” Village Trustee Michael Maher, who participated one of the focus groups, said. “It’s a major development opportunity, and key because it’s right on the Milwaukee River — an environmental corridor — and an entrance to the village.”

Swartz said senior living would be an ideal early development because of favorable market demand, but that other housing — be it townhouses, condos, or apartments — would be more profitable if the village waits for better market conditions.

Sunrise originally bought the Riverbrook site with plans to construct a $16 million senior facility, but when the economy soured.

Maher said a priority for him when looking at development proposals will be protecting the river.

“It’s a precious resource and we don’t want to put anything in there that would harm the river,” he said.

As part of the Milwaukee River Greenway master plan, Maher said he hopes whoever buys the land will deed the river bluff area to the village for trails along the top and bottom of the bluff.  

Swartz said many developers have approached the village with ideas, none of which village officials were keen on. He said there could be more proposals now that construction on Capitol Drive and the Oak Leaf Bike Trail bridge is nearing completion, and with the former Riverbrook Restaurant soon to be razed.

N. Peske July 15, 2011 at 12:16 AM
Senior living facilities like Sunrise are all about profit and neglecting the elders. Let's make better decisions this time. I would like to see a plan that requires a certain number of beds to be set aside for elders on Family Care and Medicare--it is a crime that many of these newer centers are so profit hungry they can't even spare one bed for a middle class person who has had to go on Medicare.
Bob McBride July 15, 2011 at 01:42 AM
I guess my question would be that if one outfit that specializes in senior care that went so far as to buy the site ultimately decided to take a pass on it based on current economic conditions, what makes them think any other outfit is going to actually want to go through with a plan of a similar nature? It sounds like they're doing a lot of "hoping". I don't see any indication that anyone as of yet has proposed any such development (or any development, period, from what I gather from the article), despite what "officials" might feel is the best use of the land. How about seeing what actually comes in the door before getting too set on a specific type of use for the property?
Vicki Bennett July 15, 2011 at 06:23 PM
Why not build senior independent or assisted living apartments? It would allow seniors who are connected to Shorewood and the north shore to continue to live independently in the area, but not commit the community to a "nursing home."
Naive One July 15, 2011 at 06:38 PM
I thought that there was a proposal, a couple a months ago, to combine the Northshore Police departments into one. Part of the proposal was to locate this combined entity on Wilson Drive, about a block north of the Riverbrook/Sunrise site. Has there been any connection between this idea and the article above?
Adam W. McCoy (Editor) July 15, 2011 at 06:50 PM
You're referring to the abandoned AB Data building on North Wilson Drive. Shorewood's police chief had talked to Whitefish Bay and Shorewood about combining police services to save money and possibly using that building as a new police station, like you said. The "Milwaukee River Site" this article discusses only includes the buildings on the south side of East Capitol Drive.

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