Logemann’s future gets even murkier
Decision delayed again; city gets new offer to buy

By Gary Achterberg - News Graphic

Oct. 17, 2017

MEQUON — Last Tuesday’s Mequon Common Council meeting was supposed to be the line in the sand when the fate of the Logemann Center would be decided.

With 11 p.m. in the rear-view mirror and the discussion still in full swing, action got shelved again as Mayor Dan Abendroth broke a 4-4 tie vote in favor of tabling the matter until November.

The crux of the issue is whether to sell the closed community center and allow construction of the Backwoods Pub & Grill or use the space for additional parking.

A parking study that cost the city $58,238 says the restaurant will add to already-tight parking in the first phase of the Mequon Town Center. However, former Alderman John Leszcynski, who wants to build the restaurant, claims there are numerous flaws in the study. With some minor modifications, there will be sufficient parking for everyone, he said.

The issue took a further twist with the addition of a second offer to purchase. The Lokre Companies, which now owns the Town Center, said its “purchase price” involves spending $200,000 to remove the building “and to install a new parking lot on the property.” Lokre’s offer to purchase was delivered to the city the day before the Oct. 10 Common Council meeting.

Aldermen and city staff put steps in place at its Sept. 12 meeting to decide on Logemann. Lesczynski submitted an offer for the building and property that involved spending $110,000 for projects on and adjacent to the property.

Discussion at the Common Council focused on parking. Lesczynski and his wife, Laura, provided a detailed assessment that questioned conclusions in the parking study. He said there will be sufficient parking for the Town Center’s customers and employees, as well as for his development.

He told the News Graphic Monday that at the peak time measured by the parking study – 6:30 p.m. on the first Friday in June – there were 226 cars in the Town Center, City Hall and Logemann parking lots. He said with a proposed parking lot redesign by the city, there still would have been 89 vacant parking spots at that time.

“The simple step of redesigning one city lot pretty much solves the problem,” he said.

He added additional steps of relocating where city employees park, counting 12 spots in a Town Center parking lot that are intended for public parking and his plan to lease 20 spots across Mequon Road for Backwoods employees would provide even more parking.

However, an owner of Café Hollander in the Town Center, told aldermen that adding the restaurant “will stress out our parking lot to the point of bursting.”

“Putting a restaurant in this location will be a disaster for us,” said Eric Wagner. “We are doing OK and I think we will continue to do OK. Putting this restaurant here, I think, will be devastating. I will tell you there will be closures in the Town Center if this happens.”

Wagner said he has been involved in about 20 restaurants; most have been successful. He called plans for the additional restaurant “quite frankly, mind-blowing to me.”

He said his company “fully supports” the Lokre offer. “We also will be putting our money where our mouth is and we’ll be contributing to the parking as well,” he said.

Lokre’s offer was not on the agenda; the Common Council did not discuss it. Kim Tollefson, Mequon’s director of Community Development, mentioned it in opening remarks. In addition to Wagner, Victor Anderson, a broker with Plover-based Lokre, spoke briefly during a time set aside for comments from the public. It’s likely the Lesczynski and Lokre offers both will be on November’s Common Council agenda.

Dr. Bobby Fischer, owner of Fischer Family Chiropractic, also spoke. He said he has experienced parking problems since his business opened in the Mequon Town Center more than two years ago.

“Patients have expressed concern about parking. Many patients have stopped treatment because finding a parking spot has taken too long,” he said. “I don’t see how a new restaurant will help keep businesses in business in the Town Center. I’ve already seen a business leave and I’ve heard other businesses are looking at their options.”

Council members came down on both sides.

Alderman John Wirth said he started off as a proponent of Backwoods – “I think it would have been a nice project.” – but has changed his mind.

“We have to look at this dispassionately,” he said. “What this does is preclude solutions for the problem we already have. It’s not that there isn’t enough parking for Backwoods Pub, it’s that there isn’t enough parking for Backwoods Pub and solving the problems we have now.”

Alderman Mark Gierl countered that the Logemann lot rarely is used.

“There is enough parking. This restaurant will be successful,” he said. “We’re coming up with reasons for it not to be successful. I think the whole thing is just a mess across the board.”

He added that Lesczynski “poked legitimate holes” in the parking study.

“I am going to vote for it,” he said. “It will be good for the city – and it will be an outstanding addition.”

The mayor said there is more to consider than just parking.

“There are a lot of financial considerations, the ability to control the future assignment of this property,” Abendroth said. “If they buy that property, they can do whatever they want there. If they want to build a Backwoods Pub, there are a lot of places in this community where they can do this; it doesn’t have to be there.”

<<EARLIER: Backwoods restaurant decision likely