New hotel, office planned at former Gehl site

By McLean Bennett

May 8, 2019

 A “FOR SALE” sign at a city-owned property, seen Tuesday near downtown West Bend, beckons interested developers to the former Gehl manufacturing site — where city officials this week have unveiled plans to potentially build a hotel and office building on part of the property.
McLean Bennett/Daily News Staff

WEST BEND — The city could get a new downtown-area hotel and office building where a factory once stood.

Common Council members late Monday night greenlighted the next steps in what’s still a fresh proposal at the former Gehl Manufacturing site, near the corner of Water Street and Forest Avenue.

“It’s great to see something of this quality, this caliber, taking place at that location,” said Mayor Kraig Sadownikow, who explained the offices and hotel would go in separate buildings — both located on about a 3.25-acre parcel.

Elected city leaders voted, after lengthy closed-session discussions on the matter, to grant a developer 60 days to strike a purchase agreement buying the land from the city.

City Administrator Jay Shambeau said the city could consider splitting the nearly 8-acre former Gehl property in two to make way for the project. Council documents this week suggest another developer is devising plans to build something else on the  other half of the former manufacturing site, though details haven’t been disclosed publicly.

Specific plans surrounding the hotel-office proposal — including how large the buildings would be or how many rooms the hotel might include — weren’t included in a statement by the city following Monday night’s council vote. The development, according to the city, would involve an agreement between West Bend and developers RafRad LLC and Kinseth Hospitality.

Shambeau said it’s too early to discuss when the project could break ground, though Sadownikow said that if approvals move along steadily, “my hope is that we’ll see dirt moved in early 2020.”

Both West Bend officials said the arrangement would likely involve selling the city-owned land to Germantown-based real estate developer RafRad. Kinseth, a hotel management company headquartered in Iowa that already manages the Hampton Inn & Suites here, would likely run the hotel once completed.

“We feel that this project will not only fill a need in the downtown area but will further draw visitors and the community to the area,” Paul Stangl, an agent with RafRad, said in a written statement released Monday by the city.

“We have many great initiatives happening in our downtown,” Shambeau said in his own prepared statement, released after Monday’s council meeting. “Combine those with the positive citywide business and residential energy, there is no question why this makes a lot of sense.”

It’s not the first time a developer has eyed the former Gehl property, which sits near the Milwaukee River just blocks from West Bend’s downtown. Shambeau said developers had recently proposed building commercial and housing facilities there, but neither proposal ever moved forward.

The acreage was once home to a factory, but it’s now mainly vacant after the former manufacturing facility there was torn down years ago.

<<EARLIER: West Bend may seek $500K redevelopment grant