West Bend may seek $500K redevelopment grant
Would go toward refurbishing former Gehl site on near east side

By McLean Bennett

March 3, 2019

MaryAnn Winter of West Bend waits to cross Water Street with her dog,
Cheyanne, near the former Gehl site on Dec. 11 in West Bend.
John Ehlke/Daily News

WEST BEND — The city’s Common Council on Monday could approve the first step in seeking $500,000 in state funding to help redevelop a currently vacant former factory site on West Bend’s near east side.

Total costs to refurbish the 8-acre parcel where the former Gehl Manufacturing center once stood at the corner of South Forest Avenue and Water Street could total about $2 million, City Administrator Jay Shambeau said Friday.

The potential half-million-dollar grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s idle sites redevelopment program could help cover about a quarter of that cost. Shambeau said the city plans to recoup other expenses through local tax incremental district reimbursements tied to any future development on the land.

“We’re hopeful that this spurs that next conversation with the next developer,” Shambeau said.

The council could approve a resolution as early as Monday night to begin pursuing the grant funding. The state economic development corporation says its idle sites program offers grants up to $500,000 to help redevelop areas that have been “idle, abandoned or underutilized” for at least five years.

Shambeau told a reporter Friday the land has gone unused for about a decade, and has sat almost completely vacant since the city razed the previous manufacturing facility a few years ago. All that’s left now are concrete slabs occupying most of the property. Redeveloping the site, though, would require more than just tearing up those slabs.

“It’s not only to remove the concrete but to also improve the road and the utilities,” Shambeau said of eventual refurbishment plans — plans he said the city would only move forward on if it secures a developer to build something new on the property.

Developers have shown interest in the land before, though Shambeau said previous proposals to build multifamily housing on the site have fallen through.

“We’ve heard rumblings of, I’ll say new interest, in that property,” the city administrator said, though he noted no firm proposals have materialized yet.