Multi-phase development considered for downtown Waukesha
Vacant land along Fox River may be turned into office, commercial space

By Katherine Michalets - Freeman Staff

May 15, 2015

 This property, which once was home to two antique malls, may become the site of mixed-use development.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

WAUKESHA - Prime vacant land next to the Fox River in downtown Waukesha is being considered for a multi-phase, mixed-use development that could also include several buildings.

Pieces of land bordered by Barstow Street and St. Paul Avenue and cut through by Bank Street are owned by the Huelsman family, owners of Berg Management; local attorney Charles Davies; and Waukesha State Bank President Ty Taylor.

Catherine Huelsman, general manager of Berg Management, said her family, which includes Bill and Alan Huelsman, owns the vacant Hardee’s building, while Taylor owns some land along St. Paul and Davies owns the largest portion. Huelsman said it makes sense for all the properties to be combined together for any future development.

Previously, the site also included two antique stores that had previously been grocery stores. They were demolished in late 2013 due to their poor condition.

Huelsman said Alan and Bill have spoken with Mayor Shawn Reilly and City Planner Jennifer Andrews about the future of the property.

Reilly said it’s been suggested that three or four buildings could be constructed on the land next to the river with the first building containing office space.

“They are thinking it through carefully,” Reilly said of the Huelsmans.

 Grass grows on the site of a former antique mall, which may become the site of mixed-use development.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

The buildings would be tied into the river and the downtown in their design, Reilly said. Also, he said with multiple buildings the project would be done in phases.

That site, once referred to as the “Gold Coast” of Waukesha by former City Planner Steve Crandell, is a big asset to the city right now, Reilly said. It’s also near a large parking ramp.

Reilly said he wants whatever happens along the river to be well thought out.

In 2011, the Huelsmans funded a $15,000 feasibility study that determined the site could easily sustain a mid-sized convention center, but the family couldn’t front the $20 million construction costs alone. The family approached the city asking for tax incremental financing funding up front. The city wasn’t interested and the project stopped before it ever really got started.

In 2008, Catherine Huelsman said, they also proposed building a multi-use development with retail and apartments, but that also did not advance.

She said right now only ideas are being floated around about the land along the Fox River downtown, but the multiple buildings would likely be commercial, adding that Reilly wants to see a plan for the whole site from the start.

“It will definitely be something nice,” Catherine Huelsman said. “We have interest in it but it is also expensive to start.”