Council approves seeking $500K Gehl redevelopment grant

By McLean Bennett

March 6, 2019

The “For Sale” sign is seen Tuesday morning at the site of the former
Gehl Manufacturing company in West Bend.
John Ehlke/Daily News

WEST BEND — The Common Council on Monday night approved seeking up to $500,000 in state grant funding to help spur improvements at a disused former manufacturing site near downtown.

The near-unanimous vote — one council member was absent — marks the city’s first effort to acquire the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation’s idle sites redevelopment program grant. The money would go towards tearing out concrete slabs, which are all that remain of the former factory, and revitalizing sewer, street and other infrastructure near the onetime Gehl Manufacturing center.

The site has gone unused for about a decade, and has been completely vacant since the city several years ago tore down the former factory at South Forest Avenue and Water Street. Developers in the past have approached West Bend about building multifamily housing units on the 8-acre parcel, but those plans have fallen through.

The $500,000 grant would be the largest possible allowed under the state economic development corporation’s idle sites program, which authorizes grant funds up to that amount to help jumpstart projects at disused or abandoned properties.

City Administrator Jay Shambeau has said revitalizing the site could cost an estimated $2 million, meaning the potential WEDC grant would cover only about one-fourth of the total price tag. He has said the city would move forward with funding the refurbishment only after a developer steps forward with plans to reuse the property. Funds collected by the city through any development, he said, would help West Bend recoup remaining renovation costs.

Shambeau said last week the city had fielded some new potential interest from developers, though he said no specific proposals had materialized yet.

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