Olympia to remain a resort
Owner drops rezoning request for converting main building into a retirement village

By Jake Meister - Freeman Staff

Nov. 30, 2016

OCONOMOWOC — Olympia Resort will not be converted into a retirement village and will remain a resort, the property’s owner, Rick Eckert, told The Freeman Tuesday.

Eckert said he called Oconomowoc City Planner/Zoning Administrator Jason Gallo to drop the rezoning request for the property — a change that Eckert would have needed to convert Olympia’s 256-room main building into a 138-apartment retirement village.

“We’ve decided after long meetings with the city and other people that we’re going to remain a resort,” Eckert said.

The proposal to convert Olympia into a retirement village for those 55 and older met considerable opposition from the Common Council Nov. 15 when it decided to move the proposed rezoning of the property as well as the creation of a Planned Development Overlay District ordinance for the property back to the Plan Commission. Council members said throughout the meeting that the conversion plans lacked a lot of detail. The council eventually determined that by moving the proposed rezoning and ordinance back to the commission, the city could get the information it needed.

Eckert said that decision to drop the conversion effort “wasn’t forced” by the city’s decision, but was more the result of other developments.

The recent reopening of Highway 67 has provided huge hope for Olympia’s future, Eckert said. He said the long-term work on the major highway caused considerable struggles for his business.

Eckert’s views pertaining to the state of resorts and future of 55-and-over retirement villages have also changed quite a bit from when he last spoke to The Freeman in early October.

Eckert said a recent study Olympia had conducted concluded there is “over saturation” of retirement villages similar to the “Genesis Villages at Olympia” that had been proposed.

“Everyone is going for 55 and over because it’s (the percentage of the U.S. population at 55 or over) never been higher than 26 percent of the population, he said.”

Eckert also expressed concern with a business venture that wouldn’t cater to a large portion of the population.

“Why would we diminish the business that we could get?” he said.

Eckert expressed concerns as well about having to compete with Shorehaven and its current upgrades. He praised Shorehaven’s resources and the business it operates.

Eckert said he might also be moving to a new chapter in his life.

“I’m 70 years old,” he said. “It’s time for me to retire.”

Eckert said at least one group — which he declined to name — is interested in purchasing Olympia. He said that group has said it would plan to maintain Olympia as a resort following a purchase.

“We’ve been a resort for 40 years,” Eckert added. “We’re going to remain a resort for another 40 years.”

Email: jmeister@conleynet.com

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