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Controversy over the future of Baylake City Center in downtown Green Bay

The Gateway Collective, a newly-formed nonprofit, is planning to convert the second floor of the Baylake City Center into affordable housing. But city leaders are opposing the plan
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Posted at 10:24 PM, Jul 05, 2023

GREEN BAY (NBC 26) — A Green Bay nonprofit is planning to convert the second floor of the Baylake City Center in downtown into affordable housing.

"They'll be extremely all high-quality build, as well as include a lot of intentional community space," The Gateway Collective Director of Development Christian Jensen said.

The Gateway Collective, a new nonprofit formed by St. John's Ministries, is helping with the development.

The organization is calling the project the City Center Lofts.

"The Gateway Collective exists to provide high-quality, affordable housing for our area's workforce of all income levels," Jensen said.

The City Center Lofts will have 72 apartment units. Jensen said 28 of them will not have exterior windows.

"They'll all have natural light, either skylights inside or windows on the outside," Jensen said.

Green Bay Fire Chief Matthew Knott tells NBC 26 that windowless apartment units technically meet city code.

"That draws a lot of red flags," Common Council Vice President Brian Johnson said. "And so, while code might currently permit it, my gut tells me that a year or two from now, code is going to react to this, and this probably won't be a permissible product."

Some city leaders, like Johnson, do not support the project.

Their concerns are not just over windowless apartments, but also that the development interferes with a downtown revitalization plan signed off on in 2014 when Jim Schmitt was the mayor.

"It's a long-range plan," Schmitt said. "It doesn't happen overnight."

Schmitt said part of the city's project, known as the AuthentiCity Plan, calls for extending Pine Street and demolishing the Baylake City Center for more green space.

"It's always been the plan, and something that I think we should adhere to," Schmitt said.

Schmitt said he doesn't think the City Center Lofts is the best fit for downtown.

"Maybe the best thing for our community, but the location is the wrong thing," Schmitt said.

"The city's had many opportunities to use this site to further that plan, and just hasn't chosen to do it," Jensen said.

"Why the city didn't buy it eight years ago, we didn't have the money," Schmitt said. "But it wasn't for lack of effort."

The City Center Lofts are set to be open for tenants early next year.

But Johnson said city leaders are going to try and have conversations with everyone involved about the future of the Baylake City Center.

"It's just not a product that fits the future vision," Johnson said.

City leaders, including Mayor Eric Genrich, expressed disagreement with The Gateway Collective's project during a Redevelopment Authority meeting on June 13.