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Torah school changes win panel's approval


By Mike Nichols
of the Journal Sentinel staff

August 20, 1996

The Historic Preservation Commission approved some minor modifications Monday to the Wisconsin Institute for Torah Study's proposal to build a large expansion to its Lake Drive mansion.

The commission gave the controversial plans "final approval" last April, but since then the school has decided to build the approved 30,000-square-foot addition on the lake side of the property in two separate stages.

The institute will, according to a letter from its architect to the commission, build south and center wings including a worship hall and classrooms in the "very near future." The architect, Stuart Rothman, told the commission Monday that a north wing housing a gymnasium and dining room probably would be built within three or four years.

The reason the addition is being built in stages is financial, according to Rothman. The school at 3288 N. Lake Drive, Rothman's letter indicates, simply does not have the money to build the entire addition right away.

Marty Collins, deputy commissioner of the Department of Building Inspection, said Monday that to his knowledge the school has not yet filed an application for a building permit.

The institute is expected to do so relatively quickly, however, because the Common Council is poised to consider in early September a change in a city zoning ordinance that would affect the project.

Rabbi Yehuda Cheplowitz, dean of the institute, confirmed Monday that preliminary drawings shown to the city had set-back problems. In other words, the building in some respect was too close to a lot line. That problem need not be addressed right now, according to Cheplowitz, since the gymnasium is not being built.

He also conceded that if the preliminary plans are not changed and the school does indeed build the north side wing in three or four years, school leaders would have to get a variance from the Board of Zoning Appeals.

In other action Monday, the commission deferred a decision on whether to let the owner of a building at 423-427 W. Juneau Ave., once known as the Gipfel Union Brewery, tear it down. Commission members said they want the city Department of Building Inspection to look at the property before a decision is made.

"The building is going to come down on its own if somebody does not take it down," said Donald Forbes, a consulting engineer who testified on behalf of the owner, David Berther.

The building, erected in 1853, was home to the city's first brewery.




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