Condos or con-don’ts?
Concerns voiced over city developments

By Andrea Fencl - Enterprise Staff

March 9, 2017

 The former Fong’s Garden restaurant on the corner of East Wisconsin Avenue and Main Street.
Andrea Fencl/ Enterprise Staff

OCONOMOWOC — Regarding the continual transformations in downtown Oconomowoc, many residents have voiced their concerns about the future appearance and infrastructure of the area.

“The City Planning Commission really needs to get it together and think of the city’s aesthetic as a whole. There’s no need for more eyesore condos downtown,” Jacob Strunk said.

Among the updates, Spinnakers Restaurant and Bar went out of business in mid-February of 2016 and plans for the site of the restaurant include a 21-unit condominium building.

Many people expressed concerns about the condominium developments downtown.

“I hate it,” Lisa Birren, resident for eight years, said. “I just feel like it takes up too much space, that new condo they just put up, the Gateway Apartments. There’s more people and it feels like it’s becoming overpopulated.”

 Storefronts located on East Wisconsin Avenue in Oconomowoc.
Andrea Fencl/ Enterprise Staff

There were also individuals who didn’t mind the condominiums.

“I like that they’re building the condos,” Jessica Hanon, resident for four years, said. “I wouldn’t build too many of them but some are good.”

“I just saw that they were going to be knocking down Spinnakers to put up a new condo complex,” Jack Birren, husband of Lisa Birren and also a resident for eight years, said. “The only thing I like about that, that I saw, was that the restaurants they were trying to tie in with the veterans’ affairs, but I just read it quickly.”

The proposed structure for the old Spinnakers location includes a new restaurant and a space for the American Legion Post 91. A sale has yet to be finalized for the purchase of the old Spinnakers building.

“My son goes to school at Nature Hill, the schools are already so overflowing they don’t have enough space there. They just passed that referendum for millions of dollars,” Lisa Birren said. “We already don’t have enough room for kids here and they’re just building it up bigger.”

 The Oconomowoc Community Center, 220 W. Wisconsin Ave., near City Beach.
Andrea Fencl/ Enterprise Staff

Another update to the Oconomowoc area affects the school system following the approval of a $54.9 million referendum in November 2016. The money is for facilities projects and the expenses associated with building a new Meadow View Elementary School on Highway P, a mile south of the current Meadow View Elementary. The construction for the new elementary school is set to begin in July.

Another proposed change to the downtown landscape involves the Fowler Lake Waterfront Project.

“I wish that there was more waterfront restaurants,” Ben Gerds, resident of 13 years, said. “I wish there was more entertainment venues right on the waterfront.”

Village Green project timeline

A three-section project, the first involves improvements to Village Green and the demolition of the old Fong’s Garden restaurant, 109 N. Main St., which may begin as soon as April. The second section involves the boardwalk and dock area behind City Hall and the third involves the boat launch and park.

The results of the contractor bids for the project may be presented to the Common Council during the March 21 meeting.

Other suggestions from residents included replacing the old Sentry building, 630 E. Wisconsin Ave., and to replace Kmart, 1450 Summit Ave., with a Meijer’s, Target or even an aquatic center.

“The Olympia site is underutilized,” Juliet Steitzer said. “What about a public/private partnership to redevelop the ski hill (or) make an indoor sports facility?”

Steitzer also said that she has always wanted a public pool, but such pools are expensive and haven’t historically had support.

“(The) Sentry site might be a good location for a movie theater,” Steitzer said. “My son (suggests) an indoor/outdoor skate park.”

Hanon said there were a lot of chain restaurants and she would like to see more local, farm-to-table types. She also wants to see some stores and boutiques that are targeted at a younger audience.

“I wish there was a Lego store,” said Tyler Gerds, son of Ben Gerds.

Mayor David Nold said he welcomes everyone’s opinions.

“Everybody is going to have an opinion and that’s great,” Nold said. “We’re doing what we feel is best for the community.”

Nold added that businesses want more people downtown and the city will continue to ensure that developers are following guidelines.

Whether it’s a condominium, or an indoor sports facility, in the words of Jack Birren, “Things are going to happen.”