Developer Andrew Brenner says he still plans to bring his fourth vision for the former Madison school to the city council for its blessing, despite the Winona planning commission’s forthcoming recommendation to deny a change the project needs to move forward.

The commission voted 6-2 Monday to direct city staff to write up a recommendation to deny Brenner’s project the comprehensive plan change it would need to be rezoned for the apartments he is seeking.

His new plan would convert the school into 21 market-rate, mostly one-bedroom apartments and leave the playground untouched. The back of the lot, where he had once planned to construct a two-story apartment complex, will remain empty.

Commissioners besides Brad Ballard and Laverne Olson, who voted against the recommendation to deny, balked at what they saw as Brenner’s decreased confidence in his latest plan.

“Four words made my decision for me,” said chair Ed Hahn, “when Mr. Brenner said this does not work.”

Brenner had said that the plan “still doesn’t work,” but that it will work if he secures TIF money and tax abatements. He claims commissioners misquoted him.

Despite the planning commission’s recommendation to deny, which they will finalize at their June 24 meeting, he said he plans to bring the proposal to the city council in July and that he is confident it will succeed there.

“I’m a tough son of a (expletive),” he said after the meeting. “I’m going to win.”

This fourth reimagining of the Madison property is similar to Brenner’s original plan, which was met with strong disapproval from neighbors who expressed concerns about increased traffic, a decrease in property values and a loss of free space.

Since then, he also proposed and subsequently pulled a plan for a daycare center in the building.

Neighbors also decried Monday’s proposal, including city council member Eileen Moeller who spoke as a Madison neighbor. Speakers referenced Winona’s 30% rule, which limits the amount of rentals on a given block, and said an eventual zoning change for Brenner’s property would be unfair to others who have to comply with that rule.

The R3 zoning Brenner’s proposal requires also wouldn’t keep him from changing his plan and pursuing something bigger that could still fit R3, added commissioner Craig Porter.

“The plan in my book is just way too sketchy to hang my hat on,” Porter said.

It will head to city council for its final shot. Brenner has said that if it fails, he will abandon the project.

Another change since the planning commission last reviewed Brenner’s plans is that the deed restriction on Madison that once barred it from becoming a school again has been lifted — a victory for neighbors who would like to see it reopened as an educational institution.

Gretchen Michlitsch, who lives near Madison, said Monday that community members are organizing and pulling together finances to make something of that nature a reality.

Though the official papers lifting the restriction have not yet been filed for Madison, according to the county recorder’s office, the school district provided property owners with “quit-claim deed” paperwork on May 24.

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Madeline Heim covers K-12 & higher education in Winona. A 2018 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she previously interned at the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and the suburban community arm of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

(6) comments


"Local'...dodger, no one knew or discussed before sale, knew possibilities...? Seems someone knew... Point of PB and city is to prevent problems, which seems never is even approached. Not stellar, considering our 30K burg has as many city council people as 300,000K St. Paul...Duh!

Paul Harvey

Developing a property is one thing. Managing a property is another. So far he has failed to show any management skills whatsoever with his makeshift proposals. He blindly purchased the property without doing due diligence and now is shuffling his cards to make his problem our problem.


NIMBY ALERT! Build something like the new senior apt. at Broadway and Franklin. Put protective covenants in to keep it senior living. Covered parking as well!


Mr. Brenner has a point. All of this should have been worked up by City and PC before the sale, which also is partly Mr. Brenner's fault. Kinda point out what fate of these solid buildings should be...We built them to last and later back away? All this does is burn tax dollars... BTW, who pays for court costs (SOS v WAPS, for instance?) I ask, no one responds. So gutless; so Winona...!!!


Worked up before the sale? The property was owned by ISD 861. The City and PC had no purview over the sale. Maybe 861 shouldn't have rushed to sell it.


Hopefully the City Council will give Brenner a thumbs down.

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