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Neighbors question Vainisi Plaza plan
A proposal for a new office building near Lambeau Field garnered mixed response during an open house Thursday for neighborhood residents.
Tim Kuehn, who owns nearby Margarita's Famous Mexican Food & Cantina, plans a four-story, mixed-use building on the northeast corner of South Ridge Road and Lombardi Avenue. The site of just under three acres now includes an older, single-story structure, known as the Vainisi Office Building, and several houses.
Concerns centered on three areas: traffic on Thorndale Street, whether the building would block views of Lambeau Field and a general belief that no development should happen.
Arden Schalk, who lives on Thorndale Street, objected to an exit from an expanded parking lot onto his street. It would be one of three exits for what Kuehn will call Vainisi Plaza. The others would be on Lombardi Avenue and South Ridge Road.
Schalk said they've been unable to get the city to slow down traffic on the street, which has families with children.
"We do have a drag strip on Thorndale," Schalk said. "If the city will work with us and put stop signs on Frank and Spence streets ... I've got nothing against this. There is just so much traffic."
Kuehn said he doubted the access would increase traffic on Thorndale because of a new right turn-only exit on Lombardi Avenue, where most of the traffic would go.
"I think the people who live in the neighborhood will be the only ones that use it," he said.
An audience member suggested adding the Thorndale exit later if it was needed, which Kuehn said was something to consider.
David Sherry, who also lives on Thorndale Street, is opposed to the development.
"I don't care for building the parking lot. It was originally built as a residential area," he said. "Maybe somebody would buy it and use the building that's already there."
The 40,000-square-foot building would include three floors of professional office space and first-floor retail, including possibly a coffee shop or sandwich shop, Kuehn said. A rooftop patio is planned.
The building will be close to Lombardi Avenue. Lambeau Field will be across Lombardi Avenue to the south and the Packers' 35-acre Titletown District development will be southwest across the intersection.
In addition to 18 underground parking stalls, the parking lot would have room for 172 cars, though Kuehn said it is unlikely the lot would be anywhere near full except on Packers game days.
Some neighbors fear the 70-foot tall building would block their view of Lambeau Field and change the aesthetic of the neighborhood.
"One of the things that makes our neighborhood special is the view of Lambeau Field," said one audience member.
The building's size would help buffer the neighborhood from the Titletown District, Kuehn said.
Concerns over lighting, drainage and landscaping also were mentioned.
Kuehn said he opted for the larger office building because it would have less impact on the neighborhood than a smaller, more service-intensive development with longer hours that would be needed to be financially viable on the land already zoned commercial.
"You want it to work for everybody ... and at the end of the day make some financial sense," Kuehn said.
For the project to move ahead, the city will have to amend its comprehensive plan and rezone the property with the houses.
The project could go before the city Plan Commission as early as March, Kuehn said.
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