Plans revealed for $100M development along interstate

By Brandon Anderegg

April 14, 2019

BIG BEND — Village President James Soneberg revealed plans Thursday for a multi-million-dollar development in Big Bend with the hope that Village Board members and the incoming president will carry on the project.

The development would be located at the Interstate 43 and Highway 164 interchange, which Big Bend has identified as a prime location for development since the early 1990s.

A rough concept for the project suggests the development would have an anchor big box store, parcels for restaurants, retail or hotels with a neighboring business park. Soneberg said the whole development would span approximately 200 acres and could generate as much as $100 million to the tax base.

 Soneberg added that Milwaukee- based Commercial real estate company Zilber Property Group would partner with Big Bend to get the development up and running over a 10- to 20-year period, with some retail portions of the property opening in the next five years, he said.

“Granted this is mostly preliminary,” Soneberg said. “It gives customers and the community a feel for what would be coming into the community.”

Soneberg, who’s stepping down as president on Tuesday after being defeated in his April 2 re-election bid by Warren Lajsic, admitted the project will require a lot of time and attention, but said Big Bend can’t afford to miss out on the opportunity.

“I’ve spent several days (working) on it over the past few months because I felt it was so much of a benefit for Big Bend,” Soneberg said. “I don’t want to see it falter because it has so much potential.”

Soneberg said he’s discussed the project in closed session with the Village Board on two different occasions, but the project has not yet been brought to the public.

Development challenges

Big Bend has attracted little development to the area when compared to neighboring municipalities that also abut interstates. Soneberg blames the economic downturn in 2008 but said the lack of sewer and water has also been a major deterrent for prospective developers.

“You see the area communities around the region doing projects and development,” Soneberg said. “Talking with businesses throughout the last few years, we’ve been passed up because of the sewer and water issue.”

For this reason, sewer and water would be a component of the project. Big Bend currently has three quarters of a mile of sewer pipe under Highway 164/ Big Bend Drive just west of Big Bend Village Park. Soneberg said an additional mile of piping would be needed to connect the development with a sewer and water plant that would be located at Big Bend Village Park.

Soneberg estimates sewer, water and a treatment plant would cost up to $11 million, but the infrastructure costs of both development and sewer and water would be paid off by a tax incremental financing district over a 16-year period, he added.

Tax incremental financing allows municipalities to funnel tax money into improvements within a geographic district. After a TIF district is created, a portion of the property tax generated on new developments within the district, called “increment,” goes into a pot that can be used to pay for improvements, like environmental clean ups, road construction and demolition projects.

The end result of the project would be added retail for Big Bend residents while generating the tax revenue necessary for capital investments, infrastructure projects while lowering the overall tax rate, Soneberg said.