Hard to tell when former Sentry storefront will be filled

By Jake Meister - Freeman Staff

June 8, 2017

 The storefront at 630 E. Wisconsin Ave. has been empty since 2009 when Sentry left the facility. The owners of the building are said to be interested in leasing or selling the property.
Jake Meister/Freeman Staff

OCONOMOWOC - The grass surrounding the storefront at 630 E. Wisconsin Ave. still grows, but business remains dead since Sentry left the facility empty in 2009.

Though the property featuring a 40,000-square-foot structure on nearly five acres of land near water has drawn interest, it is hard to tell when it will be purchased or leased out by its California-based ownership, said Oconomowoc Realty owner Mike Herro, who has fielded inquiries on the property since getting the listing a year and a half ago.

When Herro first took on the listing, the property was getting looks from a number of groups and some were interested in a deal. However, the owners were limited by their desire to only lease the property - a stance they had taken for some time - and prices couldn't be agreed upon, said Herro.

Over the last six weeks or so, the ownership has been open to listening to offers for the outright sale of the property, though leasing is still their desire, Herro said.

"The owners really need to look at all their options I guess, and I think they're really doing that now," Herro said.

A wide variety of groups have expressed interest in the property since Oconomowoc Realty took the listing. Herro said some high-end grocery stores, churches and potential gyms have taken a peek. A few groups have examined converting the structure into a residential property. Even some manufacturing companies have examined the property.

City eager to have location filled

Oconomowoc Mayor Dave Nold said the best solution for the property, at least from the city's perspective, would be for it to be consumer-based. Though he thinks something involving entertainment might work, a retail-oriented operation would be the best fit, he said. Nold said people have told him they wish there was still a grocery store downtown and a high-end one would be a fit.

"I think that would perform great in the city," Nold said. "It's always been wanted."

Oconomowoc Economic Development Director Bob Duffy said the city is near full occupancy downtown regarding businesses operating from the storefronts and it would love to have the former Sentry site filled.

"Obviously any utilization of that building would be advantageous to the city," Duffy said.

The property is zoned mixed-use commercial, said City Planner and Zoning Administrator Jason Gallo. That type of district allows for a number of land uses, which provides flexibility because different types of businesses - like retail and residential - can operate at the site at the same time.

"With the flexibility allowed under the zoning district, I would endorse uses that conform to the current zoning," Gallo said. "The site has a great location, being on Wisconsin Avenue, with secondary road frontage on Thompson Street, and having water frontage on Fowler Lake along the back side. I can picture this sizable site being redeveloped with commercial/office on the ground floor and some residential units on the upper floors. In addition, there is potential for a new lot to be created along Wisconsin Avenue for a commercial use."

Several parties have come to the city expressing interest in the site over the years, but various reasons have kept the projects from going through, Gallo said.

Email: jmeister@conleynet.com