By Nick Wood
GREEN BAY – A plan for complete renovation of the former Baxter’s and Bangkok Garden building at the corner of Broadway and Dousman Street in downtown Green Bay ran into a snag with the Green Bay Landmarks Commission Oct. 19 over the plan to replace three small but historic saloon windows facing Broadway with three large storefront windows.
According to the commission’s historian and engineer, Jason Flatt, the building was constructed by Felix DuChateau in 1909 primarily as a saloon with three other storefronts for rental income and apartments upstairs.
The building is part of the Broadway-Dousman historic district and was placed on the state and national registers of historic places in 1999.
According to Flatt, the building retains a high level of historic integrity.
”The primary concern here is that the corner store was a saloon and intended to be a saloon, so a character-defining feature is the three small windows along Broadway,” Flatt told commission members. “Those windows are up high enough such that you can’t see in — you can’t see who’s in there drinking at the saloon or what they’re up to — but it lets in light.”
Owner Garritt Bader of BFAM, LLC in Green Bay argued that the now-vacant building is in bad shape, and the worst thing would be to do nothing.
His overall plan calls for first floor renovations to create at least two commercial or retail business spaces; completely gutting the second story and renovating it for residential use; and remodeling the exterior with new paint, signage and windows.
He told the commission that he is willing to meet the more costly requirements to upgrade finishes or materials to be more historically appropriate, but storefront windows along the Broadway facade are critical to the plan.
“I do not think adding the storefront is devastating,” Bader said. “On the contrary, given the work that we’re doing on Broadway for the street front, pedestrian, lively atmosphere we are seeking to create, it’s actually necessary to have more windows in a building like this today.”
Bader acknowledged that the building was a saloon years ago, but he said today it’s neither a saloon nor a modern storefront, and his proposal would be attractive to tenants and more aesthetically pleasing overall.
“The district has changed, it’s evolved, and the buildings should breathe and evolve with it,” Bader said.
Asked whether the rest of the plan could go forward if the saloon windows stayed, Bader said it would not be harmonious with the rest of the renovation.
Committee member David Siegel said he appreciated Bader’s argument and acknowledged that the overall renovation may be improving the building, but he stuck with his opinion that the changes would be devastating to the historic integrity of the building, which is the mission of the commission.
The commission is directed by city ordinance to approve applications for renovations unless the proposed change would “detrimentally change, destroy, or adversely affect any exterior feature” of a designated historic structure.
“Our mission is to preserve the historic nature,” Siegel said. “My only real problem, my only problem at all, actually, is altering that first floor imagery from the sidewalk.”
Other members of the commission, who include a mix of seven volunteers appointed by the mayor, agreed.
The commission voted unanimously to table the request to alter the first floor facade, and then voted unanimously to approve the rest of the request for replacement of second floor windows, painting and renovation of the single story building at the rear of the property.
That motion included language to call a special meeting of the commission if Bader comes back with a plan they could approve before next month’s meeting.
Ald. Brian Johnson, who represents the area and is also the director of On Broadway, Inc., abstained.