Old Pick ’n Save thorn in Grafton’s side
Grafton eyeing strategies for several buildings

By Melanie Boyung - News Graphic Staff

July 18, 2017

 A laser tag business once considered moving into the former Pick ’n Save building,
which has been empty since 2009.
Photo by Mark Justesen

GRAFTON — A former Mexican restaurant building and a private home are among the properties being eyed for redevelopment in Grafton.

The village’s Community Development Authority heard from staff earlier this month about the state of the downtown and the south commercial district areas. Village Planner Jessica Wolff and Village Administrator Jesse Thyes also talked about development opportunities for the sites.

“The village has made significant headway, completing significant projects downtown,” Wolff said, referencing such recent developments as the Lumberyard 1505 retail and residential project on Wisconsin Avenue and Beech Street.

The downtown sites discussed were a residential home, the former Grafton State Bank building and the abandoned Clark Station.

The Clark Station, at 1020 Washington St., has been empty for more than a year; the owners left the business with the merchandise inside and gas still in the underground tanks.

 The former Grafton State Bank building at 1234 12th Ave. was constructed in 1926.
Photo by Mark Justesen

While the village was able to clean up the outside lot after it became a nuisance and the owners did not address it, village crews cannot enter the gas station.

“The owners are out of the country and not expected to return,” Wolff said.

She told the CDA that the owners have not been paying taxes, but the bank that owns the mortgage does not want to foreclose and become responsible for the property’s issues with the gas tanks. The state is aware of the problem and has prioritized the site, according to Thyes, but the village has no word on what will be done or when.

“There are a lot of unknowns about this site, and that makes it difficult,” Wolff said.

 A Grafton police officer watches as village workers clean up the Clark Station after the owner refused to comply with an order to do so.
Photo by Deb Kranitz

CDA members said the site is important because of its visibility, but could be difficult to redevelop because of the gas tanks and size of the lots.

The residential home discussed is south of the Grafton Mill, and the village has earmarked the location for additional downtown parking. Wolff told the CDA there are residents currently in the home and they are not intending to move in the immediate future, but the family is aware the village would like to purchase the property. If or when that occurs, the village intends to create a parking lot.

“Activity levels are only going to increase downtown … I think we need to continue supporting that active downtown,” Wolff said.

While it has been some years since a parking study was done, Wolff and Thyes said the need isn’t likely to go down as development increases. Wolff said that project has been on the books and budgeted by the village for some time, whenever it becomes available.

Wolff said the Grafton State Bank building is owned by David Downey, who would like to sell it and another nearby building for redevelopment, but wishes to do it responsibly for a development that would fit the town.

Wolff said also that there has been damage to the interior of the building, and it is in “difficult condition.”

In the south commercial district, the sites discussed were Sonrisa and the old Pick ’n Save. Wolff said the Sonrisa site has potential, but because of its location and shape, does offer some challenges to finding the right redevelopment project.

 The former Sonrisa restaurant, 2185 Wisconsin Ave., was also home to Senior Luna.
Photo by Mark Justesen

The former Pick ‘n Save on Wisconsin Avenue offers greater challenges, according to the CDA discussion. While the tenants on the property in smaller spaces seem committed, according to Wolff, the Pick ’n Save store has been vacant for years. A CDA member asked if it could be redeveloped with tax incremental financing, but Wolff said redevelopment would not likely increase the property’s value enough for that to be feasible.

“This is definitely one of our most challenging sites,” Wolff said.

The CDA is scheduled to meet again next month in closed session. She said they have not given staff specific direction yet, but intend to strategize on how to proceed with the potential development sites.

Email: mboyung@conleynet.com