Company chosen to develop former strip mall site

By Ashley Haynes

April 5, 2019

WAUKESHA — A vacant site across from City Hall will once again be full of life.

Common Council members have approved the developer they will work with to redevelop the site of a formal strip mall on Delafield Street.

After months of discussion, council members voted 13 to 1 Thursday to move forward with Horizon Development and the Luther Group. Alderwoman Kathleen Cummings was the lone dissenting vote.

Council members previously provided feedback to the city’s Redevelopment Authority that supported a mixed-use, multi-family or senior housing development on the site. Alderman Vance Skinner, a member of the Redevelopment Authority, said at Thursday’s meeting that the knowledge and skillset of Horizon Development and the Luther Group was part of what sold him on their proposal.

“It was kind of a two-for-one deal from my perspective, because Horizon/ Luther, it’s both a commercial and development piece so we’re getting the expertise from both sides of that equation,” Skinner said.

In their proposal, Horizon Development and the Luther Group focus primarily on the 3.38 acres directly across the street from City Hall, 201 Delafield St., pitching an 80-unit senior housing project with 7,500 square feet of commercial space. The developers suggest a number of possible uses for the City Hall Annex property, including a four-story, 80 unit, 50,000square-foot hotel; a 22,000 square-foot medical office building; and a 14,700square-foot retail and restaurant development.

A final use for the corner property still needs to be determined. The mixed-use piece of the proposal has an estimated value of about $9.3 million. Combined with the corner property, that value could rise to $12 to $18 million.

 “One thing I did want to call out on the material that was submitted that we reviewed — those are all conceptual. Those are not final plans,” Skinner said. “Those were just meant for us to react to and there was significant reaction.”

Although the project is still in preliminary stages, one concern has been brought forward by Lisa Salb, owner of the historic Blair House, located next to the parcel of land.

Salb addressed the council and expressed her concern with Horizon Development and the Luther Group’s initial redevelopment plan, which lists a hotel as a possible building that could be built on the corner property. Salb said this early design concept could have negative effects on the Blair House.

“Regardless of whether it’s a hotel or not, blocking the view of the Blair House would not only be destroying part of its past but it could also affect our property value and the future business of the upcoming bed and breakfast,” Salb said.

Alderwoman Cassie Rodriguez reminded her fellow council members that they should work with the developer to keep the view of the Blair House unobstructed as planning continues.