Town Square project in Oak Creek.
MILWAUKEE - A
mixture of new, ground-up projects and older expansion
efforts are changing the economic picture of the four
communities dotting the South Shore region of Milwaukee
Oak Creek’s mixed-use Drexel
Town Square is, perhaps, the most notable of the group. While there
have been a few hiccups in the process, the 85-acre development at
the intersection of Howell and Drexel avenues is beginning to take
A smattering of retailers,
including Water Street Brewery, have begun operations at the site,
which is replacing the long-dormant Delphi plant. The city
of Oak Creek this week moved
its municipal building and library to the property.
tower of Oak Creek City Hall is on the right in this photo taken
earlier this year. Jerry Franke, president of Wispark, said the
Drexel Town Square project was delayed partly by the polar
Jerry Franke is
president of Wispark, the real estate development arm of
Wisconsin Energy Corp. Franke concedes construction of
Drexel Town Square is about 14 months behind schedule,
due in large part to the severe conditions from the
polar vortex from nearly two years ago.
“But there is a lot of
activity taking place at the site now,” Franke said. “When you look
at (Drexel Town Square) now and what it will look like in a year, it
will be drastically different.”
In addition to housing a
variety of retail operations and a municipal town center, Drexel
Town Square will have a housing component and include a variety of
apartments and condominiums.
“The city of Oak Creek, which
has been an outstanding partner on this, is going to be known as one
of the first communities in this country, developed in the 1950s,
that will finally have a downtown area,” Franke said.
Oak Creek’s neighbors to the
north, of course, have far richer histories. Officials in South
Milwaukee, Cudahy and St. Francis are taking a variety of steps to
breathe new life into heritage sites.
The four municipalities
highlighted some of the economic developments last week at a forum,
held at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center. County
Supervisor Pat Jursik, who represents most of the region, hosted the
As the community’s name
implies, Cudahy’s Patrick Cudahy meatpacking plant has long been the
backbone of the city’s local economy. Smithfield Foods, based in
Virginia, operates the Patrick Cudahy plant, and is in the midst of
a 12,500-square-foot addition.
Cudahy Mayor John Hohenfeldt
said the addition will allow for increased production and
efficiencies in many of the plant’s operations, including a sausage
smokehouse for the company’s salami and pepperoni products.
South Milwaukee is in the
midst of an extensive revamp of its historic downtown commercial
corridor, which in previous years sat empty. While South Milwaukee
houses big-box retailer Walmart, Mayor Erik Brooks said he proudly
trumpets the fact the retailers in the downtown region are the anti-Walmart.
“To me, economic development
really is all about strategy,” Brooks said. “It’s really about
making everything desirable and attractive.”
A mixture of chains and
locally run shops are dotting the downtown corridor, Brooks said,
and include a soccer pub, a candy shop and a locally operated coffee
shop and hair salon. All of the shops recently laid roots along the
Brooks said the goal is to
make South Milwaukee’s downtown a destination spot. The expanding
farmers market is one of several examples Brooks pointed to as draws
to the heart of the city.
In St. Francis, Mayor CoryAnn
St. Marie-Carls said the FBI headquarters, taking the place of the
former lakefront Stark Investments site, is underway with completion
eyed for next May.
The FBI’s entry into St.
Francis is tied to a series of decisions made by the city’s Common
Officials have approved
creating a 470-acre tax-incremental financing district that includes
a potential $9.9 million pay-as-you-go incentive for Bear
Development, the firm overseeing the project.
In addition to the FBI
offices, the TIF district includes a three-phase, three-building
apartment development along South Lake Drive. That project carries a
valuation of $45 million.