Vainisi Plaza goes ahead minus a driveway

Richard Ryman
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GREEN BAY - Tim Kuehn's Vainisi Plaza office building passed the Plan Commission, but not without modification.

Commission members on Monday sent the proposal to city council minus a driveway onto Thorndale Street, which drew the most opposition to the plan. Neighbors claimed it would increase traffic on the residential street. A traffic study said the impact would be minimal.

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 fewer than 3 acres now includes an older, single-story structure, known as the Vainisi Office Building, and several houses. The building would be across the street from Lambeau Field and across the intersection from the Green Bay Packers' Titletown District.

Kuehn said he'll let the city council decide on the driveway, though he was annoyed that the traffic study, which he said cost $30,000 and was requested by the city, was ignored.

"It's politicalness versus the science and the merits of the traffic study," he said.

Throughout the monthslong approval process, public opposition focused on the driveway onto Thorndale. The project also plans a west-only driveway on Lombardi Avenue and a two-way driveway on South Ridge Road, both major roadways. Kuehn said the Thorndale driveway would help connect the project to the neighborhood, whose residents might want to patronize tenants.

"He said the Thorndale driveway was for residents and they don't want it. I believe that is a big stop sign," said Bill Oldenburg, a neighborhood resident.

Steve Schommer, who lives on Thorndale, said he questioned the results of the traffic study, even though he thought it "was a great project. It really is."

"I am opposed to this project simply because we have little kids in the neighborhood," he said. "I just don't believe we need the driveway on Thorndale."

Plan Commission members were divided on whether to approve a city staff proposal to exclude the driveway, but approved it in the interest of not bringing the development to a halt.

The project, which includes a zoning change, and creation of a planned unit development, will go to City Council on July 19 for a first reading. Economic Development Director Kevin Vonck said the council may advance it to a third reading and public hearing at the August council meeting.

Contact and follow him on Twitter @RichRymanPG, onInstagram at rrymanpgor on Facebook at Richard Ryman-Press-Gazette. Or call him at (920) 431-8342.

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