Revitalization in Richfield
Officials hope changes spur development

By JOE VANDELAARSCHOT - Daily News

Aug. 13, 2015

A sign welcoming patrons to downtown Richfield is covered in bushes Tuesday afternoon outside the empty Amici's Italian Restorante in downtown Richfield.
Photos by John Ehlke


RICHFIELD - Richfield officials hope proposed business district classifications will provide an economic surge in the village’s downtown.

Members of the Plan Commission and village staff held a discussion in July to find a way to encourage the revitalization of the downtown “Richfield hamlet.”

Village Administrator Jim Healy said the following policies came out of the meeting:
 

The district will include the “church parcels” across the street from Pioneer Bowl and two larger parcels north on the west side of Highway 175.

The village will consider the purchase of one or more properties for municipal parking to alleviate parking congestion.

Setbacks on the west side of Highway 175 will be different than setbacks on the east side of the highway for emergency access, refuse collection and other needs.

New residential uses, on the second floors of commercial structures will be allowed with a conditional use permit.

The downtown will be marketed as a “destination” location for businesses and also allow for various types of business-incubation activities to occur.

Parking will be allowed in the front yard setback and the furthest a building could be away from the street is 15 feet.

One of the buildings in downtown Richfield is reflected in a window covered in plants Tuesday afternoon.
Photos by John Ehlke

Village Deputy Treasurer KateLynn Schmitt said the changes make it easier to understand zoning requirements and begin developing downtown.

“Basically most property in the downtown is nonconforming to current zoning rules,” Schmitt said. “Virtually none of the current properties can undertake any expansion or changes because they don’t have the space.”

Village Trustee and Plan Commission member Bill Collins said the village wants to help property owners in downtown. “Anything we can do to promote development there and new business is a plus for everyone in the community,” Collins said. Mike Kennard, an employee of Fat Charlie’s Bar downtown, agrees the area needs help.

The view of downtown Richfield seen Tuesday afternoon.
Photos by John Ehlke

“They really could use a lot more parking for downtown,” Kennard said. “I know that’s one of the problems I’m always hearing about.”

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation postponed reconstruction of Highway 175 through a large portion of the village. The highway runs through Richfield’s downtown. One business owner said completion of the state project will help the downtown a great deal.

“We’re going to have a new road, curb, gutters, sidewalk. The downtown is going to look much better,” said Todd Reinke, owner of Laubenheimer’s Garage. “I think it will give others the incentive to clean up their businesses and properties.

“I had a lot of work done on the exterior of our building and I will install some new awnings and do some other work once the highway project is done,” Reinke said. “Cleaning up the area will go a long way to helping.”

 Revor Reinke of Richfield works on a customer's car at Laubenheimer's Garage in downtown Richfield Tuesday afternoon. The building has been in downtown Richfield since 1921. The Reinkes have operated out of the building for 30 years and are the third owners of the building. 
Photos by John Ehlke

Reinke said he can trace the history of his building back to around 1919.

“There’s been a lot of changes in the downtown I’m sure during those nearly 100 years,” he said. “Downtown will see more soon I’m sure.”

Schmitt said the Plan Commission wants to hold more discussion before they take action on any final version of the plan.

“We’re using Cedarburg as a bit of an example,” Schmitt said. “We know we’re different from them, but we want to use some of what they did to help us.”
 

Reach reporter Joe VanDeLaarschot at jvan@conleynet.com.