Redeveloping Olympia and Summit Avenue Corridor
Oconomowoc continues to find proactive ways to evolve as a community

By Brandon Anderegg - Enterprise Staff

Jan. 25, 2018

OCONOMOWOC — For decades Olympia Resort and aspects of its property have been in flux — and now with the closure of the resort itself, city officials are looking at what’s next.

In fact, city officials have begun conversations with several of the Summit Avenue Corridor property and land owners in a collaborative effort to stimulate growth in this portion of the city that includes Olympia, said Oconomowoc Economic Development Director Bob Duffy.

“We’ve met with them individually, but we want to bring them in collectively,” said Duffy. “And then explore next steps based on their feedback as property owners.”

Oconomowoc has seen a lot of development within downtown and the Pabst Farms region of the city, but the Highway 16 East Corridor and the Summit Avenue Corridor, which is best described as Olympia resort territory, have become a Community Development Authority focus.

“It’s just open land space that has the ability to be developed but currently stands idle,” said Duffy. “We see this area as the best opportunity for growth that’s available.”

Oconomowoc Alderman Lou Kowieski said the CDA has taken a new approach to development and redevelopment by engaging property owners in what he calls a “collaborative visioning effort.” The city has been less flexible in the past when it comes to the development ideas of land and property owners, he said.

“Now, we’ll be working together with property and landowners to create a combined vision that’s in the best interest for them as well as the community,” said Kowieski.

Duffy added that working with land and property owners is of utmost importance because the private sector is in the best position to determine market feasibility from an investor’s perspective.

Though redevelopment talks are in their preliminary stages, Duffy said he hopes that in time, property owners will become comfortable working with each other as well as with the city.

“From the city’s perspective, we want to see growth take place where an opportunity exists,” said Duffy. “It’s not our intent to dictate what they’re going to do with their property.”

Regional draw

With Olympia closed, is there a void left from a lodging and entertainment venue standpoint? What kind of opportunity is there for a housing component given the Summit Avenue Corridor’s vicinity to I-94?

These are a few of the questions the CDA is looking to address as they take their first steps toward aiding the more than 300 acres of land that comprise the Summit Avenue Corridor evolve, said Kowieski.

What’s important, Kowieski said, is that both the city and property owners find ways to attract the type of development that not only makes the underutilized area active but have a regional draw.

Kowieski said a novel idea might be to transform the now vacant ski hill into a terraced vineyard or an experience-oriented restaurant that allows for wine tasting. Of course, property owners would have to agree, but this is a general example of what Oconomowoc could do in combination with housing development to bring families and businesses to the area, he said.

“In general, what we would like to see is experience-oriented elements that would become an asset to the community and a regional draw,” said Kowieski.

The Common Council has put sending out requests for proposals (RFPs) on pause until the CDA has scheduled a group meeting with property owners to ensure there are no surprises, said Kowieski. However, the city is looking forward to getting the process underway with RFPs to be sent out as early as February, he said.

“As a community, we need not look at what is in place today but what can be in place for tomorrow to continue the evolution of the community,” he said.