Proposed high-rise in Wauwatosa sparks disagreement

A proposed high-rise is stirring up controversy in one Wauwatosa neighborhood. Towering nearly 300 feet in the air, if approved, the project would be the first-of-its-kind in the city.

The intersection of Highway 100 and Bluemound Road could look very different in only a matter of months. If all goes accordingly, Johnny Vassallo, the project's developer, tells FOX6 News he would like to break ground as early as spring of 2021. 

The development would be built where the old Edwardo's Pizza is located, but first, the Wauwatosa Plan Commission must meet Monday, Nov. 9 to review a request from Vassallo. It's something neighbors on Sunday, Nov. 8 said they aren't thrilled about. 

"I’m angry," said Darnelle Kaishian of Wauwatosa. "We want to keep this the quaint, cute little neighborhood that it is." 

Under the current proposal, Vassallo has set out to build a 25-story, 354-unit luxury apartment building.  

"Anything above eight stories is just going to tower over everything," said Indy Stluka of Wauwatosa."I chose to live here because I like houses. I like the suburb feel of it."

Stluka lives just a few blocks away and said he believes a building of that size would alter the character of his neighborhood. 

"It looks nice, but it does not belong next to single-story, single-family homes," he said.

Others, like Kaishian, a Wauwatosa resident for almost 50 years, feel their voices have not been heard.

"I'm offended," said Kaishian. "We want Mr. Vassallo to make money. That is his property, but other developers have made money, made money for the city, but not harmed the neighbors. He’s not trying to work with us. He’s not trying to compromise."

Owner and developer Johnny Vassallo also owns Mo’s Irish Pub across the street.

"I think [the high-rise] brings 500 residents who would live, and work, and dine, and shop in the area," said Vassallo.

Vassallo on Monday night will go before the Wauwatosa Plan Commission virtually, asking for approval on the project’s density. 

"To build more than 67 apartments, which is one apartment per 1,000 square feet of land, I need a variance and that's what I'll be asking for." he said. "We’ll have a workout facility, a pool, breakout rooms. All these amenities require us to have a lot of units to spread that cost out."

Aware of the criticism, Vassallo said he still plans to move forward.

"If this gets approved and we build it, I think three years from now, people are going to be really happy that it’s there," said Vassallo.

If Vassallo's request is approved on Monday, it will still need to go before a second commission -- then the full Wauwatosa Common Council.

Meantime, Stluka and Kaishian have started a website and petition with other neighbors who are also opposed to the project; they told FOX6 News the petition has already received about 400 signatures.