Neighbors oppose senior housing plan at SMC

Rest of former hospital property could also become residential housing
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The Shawano Plan Commission is likely to get an earful when it meets next week from neighbors opposed to a 40-unit, four-story senior housing complex being proposed for the north parking lot of the former Shawano Medical Center property.

Paul Romberg, a neighbor just east of the property, said a petition in opposition to the development already has 50 to 60 signatures, with some 100 signatures expected by the time it is presented to the plan commission next week.

“An awful lot of people are very upset,” he said.

Romberg said the proposed design, complete with an entrance to underground parking and a pitched roof, make the building closer to five or six stories and would be out of place with the residential neighborhood.

The proposal is being offered by Kansas City-based Northpoint Development Corp., which describes itself as a Class-A developer “in the industrial, senior housing and self storage markets within the central part of the United States.”

The plan commission will hold a public hearing on the proposal when it it meets Wednesday.

The former SMC campus consists of about 10 acres overlooking the Wolf River near downtown Shawano. The north parking lot consists of about 1.3 acres of that, along Bartlett Street between West Second and Third streets.

The city owns a roughly 3.5-acre parcel of the former hospital property that became home to the original Shawano Medical Center in 1931 and was leased from the city.

Shawano Medical Center purchased additional land for expansion over the years. That portion of the property is now owned by ThedaCare.

According to the city, the few development proposals that have been offered for the former SMC campus have shown no interest in the north parking lot.

The Shawano Common Council met in closed session Monday to discuss the property, but took no action.

City Administrator Brian Knapp said at least one development proposal was still on the table and could be brought forward in the next several weeks with a request for a zoning change for the SMC property to planned unit development, or residential housing.

An ad hoc task force that studied future possible uses for the property four years ago recommended options that included a waterfront supper club and lodge and a mix of condominiums and town homes, along with additional green space and a park shelter, and two single-family residential lots.

Knapp seemed to throw cold water on an idea offered by Todd Dobberstein, who led a citizens group proposing that the former hospital site be converted into a multi-use community center; a concept that was apparently not part of the council’s discussion Monday.

“We haven’t discussed the community center in quite a few months,” Knapp said.

Knapp said he anticipated there could be concerns from neighbors about the size and density of the proposed housing complex, and that the point of next week’s public hearing was to make those concerns known to the plan commission.