shift in vision?
Center change OK’d at developer’s request
By Gary Achterberg - News Graphic Staff
March 12, 2015
MEQUON — The vision
for the Mequon Town Center development took a detour
Monday as the Planning Commission approved a request
from the developer that city staff said abandons one of
the Town Center’s primary goals.
After a discussion that stretched to nearly 11 p.m.,
members of the Planning Commission ultimately voted
unanimously to allow two prospective tenants in the
development at Mequon and Cedarburg roads – Forward
Dental and Elements Massage – to only provide access to
their businesses from the parking lot.
Kim Tollefson and Jac Zader, the city’s director and
assistant director of community development,
respectively, said that the rules for the Town Center
development require that businesses be accessible from
the sidewalks along the road as well as from the
interior parking lot.
They said the long-term view for the Town Center is that
the city center area will be a pedestrian-friendly
magnet, particularly as the area just to the west along
Mequon Road is developed.
“The priority is on the pedestrian,” Tollefson said.
Blair Williams, founder of WiRED Development, who is
spearheading the five-building development with Mequon
developer Cindy Shaffer, said he was asking for
permission to provide the parking-lot-only access for
“We run the risk of losing key tenants at significant
cost to them and cost to us – and it would result in
significant loss in value for the owner and for the
city,” he said.
The total cost of the development, which includes retail
space and upscale apartments, is estimated at $19.2
million. The city has made $1.8 million cash investment
in the project and also has made modifications to
streets and various landscaping improvements in the area
worth about $1 million.
“The investment we’re making is many
multiples of the total investment that is being made by
the city of Mequon in this development,” said Williams,
adding that the project should result in paying off the
city’s tax incremental finance district in eight or nine
years, well before the deadline that is approximately 20
Williams said he agreed with the
vision of city planners to transform the area into a
pedestrian-friendly environment that will have activity
for 18 hours a day, from people getting coffee at
Colectivo in the early morning to customers enjoying a
bite to eat at Cafe Hollander late at night.
However, he said at this point it is
just that – a vision.
“I think we can agree that the
automobile consumer will be the overwhelming majority of
all customers, at least for some time into the
foreseeable future,” he said.
“To punish the development now –
when it’s at its riskiest, when we’re the ones here
together taking this risk, to impair its financial
performance and to impair the likelihood that the
consumer will come here in volume and make it part of
their daily and weekly routine – would be to impair the
viability and strength of not only the partnership, but
of the asset itself,” Williams said.
The request regarding the doors was
the most contentious of three items Williams brought to
the Planning Commission. Members agreed with a request
to permit some retail establishments to occupy spaces as
small as 700 square feet with staff approval. Williams
mentioned a dry cleaner was interested in locating
there. Commissioners rejected a request to allow window
treatments to cover glass, other than an exception for
the massage studio.
Permission to allow a single
entrance to two tenants also will not automatically
apply to others. Any future businesses seeking the same
accommodation must obtain a waiver.
At the beginning of his
presentation, Williams also offered what he called “an
olive branch,” saying he would withdraw his request for
the large Cafe Hollander sign that was proposed on top
of that building.
While several members of the
Planning Commission initially voiced support for the
original requirement of access from both the sidewalk
and parking lot, all eventually sided with the
“The worst thing I could do as a
commissioner is to promote something that is going to
make this project fail in any way, shape or form,” said
John Stoker. “We’re vested in it as a city. We have to
make this work and practicality has to come into play
Achterberg can be reached at