15 Sep 2014
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Village Vision Is Pricey

City seeks public comment on $82 million plan.

Village Vision Is Pricey Village Vision Is Pricey Village Vision Is Pricey Village Vision Is Pricey Village Vision Is Pricey

A vision to redevelop Wauwatosa’s village center outlines short- and long-term projects that combined could total nearly $82 million in public and private investment.

The public projects are tagged with probable costs of up to $13.1 million, with private investment to realize the vision nearing $68.9 million. The draft village redevelopment plan, available on the city's web site, will be open for comment at a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, at the start of the Common Council meeting.

Although implementing the plan would require significant public and private investment, adopting the plan as a planning guide does not commit the city to spending those dollars, said Nancy Welch, the city’s community development director.

Identifying the potential costs to realize the vision, Welch said, is a critical element of the plan so that the city can prioritize and coordinate future public and private investment in the village business district.

“We need to see the value of those pieces,” Welch said. “These are opinions of probable cost, a ballpark idea, so people aren’t proceeding blindly” when investing redevelopment dollars, but in alignment with an overall vision for the village.

Urban designer Marty Shukert and his firm RDG Planning and Design of Omaha, Neb., drafted the $38,500 village master plan, which was funded through the Community Development Block Grant program. The public in April received a of the recently submitted 113-page preliminary plan. RDG Planning and Design also crafted the city's newly adopted $5.4 million, 15-year redevelopment plan for a 16-block stretch of North Avenue known as .

Spending over time

Under the plan, the $13.1 in projected public spending breaks down to about $2.02 million within the first three years, up to $3.83 million within three to five years, and nearly $7.24 million in five years or more.

Areas ripe for significant private redevelopment include the old firehouse site, the Blanchard Street area, the State Street corridor that runs along the , and the proposed new River Drive. The plan slots potential private investment in these and other areas of the village at up to $20 million within the first three years, $31.3 million in three to five years, and $17.54 million in five years or more.

Of the $13.1 million in public investment, nearly $2.75 million in spending already is projected in the city‘s capital improvements budget, but not yet approved, for road design and construction on streets within the village center, said city engineer Bill Wehrley. Those dollars are for slated projects that would occur over several years, Wehrley said, and will be coordinated with city staff and village businesses to align with the village plan.

“The strategic plan is a vision; it’s not a construction document,” Wehrley said. “We have to turn the vision into concrete and asphalt, but we don’t want to put in anything that is an impediment to business.”

Wehrley said engineering staff is meeting with the village Business Improvement District to identify street improvement options in the plan that village businesses would like to see implemented.

“We are assessing with them what options that they would like and how best to sequence (road work) to minimize the impact on businesses as much as we can,“ Wehrley said.

The $2.75 million in road work planned for the village area is for routine street work repair and maintenance, Wehrley said, and so does not include any costs related to street realignment, intersection redesign and related curb and sidewalk elements within the village plan.

Village vision

The draft village plan plots redevelopment in six strategic sub areas. The redevelopment vision is to boost commercial, retail and housing offerings within the village, to bridge gaps in consumer demand and supply.

The six sub areas are: the village center; State Street from Wauwatosa Avenue east to North 68th Street; the village's border along Hart Park; the Schoonmaker Reef area north of State Street and east from North 68th to North 62nd; a new area to be called River Drive, which is a redesign of the existing River Parkway/North 63rd Street that relocates River Drive east to intersect with State Street at North 62nd Street; and the village south, which includes the Harwood Drive area south and west to the Harwood and Harmonee intersection.

Projects identified to occur within the first three years primarily focus on the village center. Those early public projects, with spending tagged at up to $2.02 million, include a wayfinding system, to make it easier navigate into and through the village core; a redesign of the Harwood and State Street intersection, to create safer crosswalks and improve traffic movement through the village hub; realignment of Harwood Avenue between State Street and Wauwatosa Avenue, so that becomes two-way and extends to and intersects at Wauwatosa Avenue; and a redesign of the Root Common public space, which shifts west as Harwood extends north.

The $20 million in potential private investment within the first three years is relegated primarily to the Schoomaker Reef area, and more specifically to a long vacant 10-acre site owned by developer David Israel, according to Welch. Israel has said he would be before the city again this year with a new residential proposal for his land, but has yet to submit any plans.

If the village plan is implemented, the three- to five-year phase, tagged for up to $35.14 million in combined public-private investment, includes creating a pedestrian railroad crossing from Hart Park at North 74th Street, redevelopment of city land that housed the old fire house on Underwood Avenue, streetscape design to highlight the Harmonee/Harwood intersection as the village’s south gateway, and launching work on the proposed new River Drive, a plan element that extends beyond five years.

The two five years-plus plan elements are Blanchard Street redevelopment and a redesign and realignment of the Harwood/Harmonee intersection as the village’s south gateway. These two major redevelopment elements could require up to $7.24 in public spending and $17.54 million in private investment.

The Blanchard Street redevelopment would convert an exisiting three-tiered public parking space to a two-level parking deck. The business redevelopment could include a two- or three-story mixed use commercial retail and office building fronting on Wauwatosa Avenue, with a possible skywalk across Wauwatosa Avenue. The plan shows the Blanchard tract also could feature a separate mid-rise building that would feature offices, a boutique hotel or residential housing at the corner of State and Wauwatosa.

The city's fire house site on Underwood Avenue is identified as a parcel that the city could sell to a developer for a mixed commercial and residential development. The city could guide the parcel's redevelopment through a request for proposal (RFP) process, which would allow the city leverage in how the parcel is developed, Welch said.

After Tuesday’s public hearing, the village plan will go to the Plan Commission and the council’s Community Development Committee for review and recommendations before returning to the council.

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