Big deal: Proposal calls for 28-acres to be developed off of Port Washington Road

City asked to kick in infrastructure improvements

April 12, 2011

Mequon — Since the economy tanked in 2009, development has almost come to a stop in most places, but a proposal from Cobalt Partners to redevelop 28 acres on the west side of Port Washington Road north of Mequon Road could be a healthy sign for the area.

The proposal, called the Mequon City Center in the presentation before the Plan Commission Monday night, calls for the demolition of four houses, Mequon Lawn and Garden and the Citgo station north of the former Grapes and Grain. A newer dental office building is in the midst of the property and currently is not be part of the project.

Twenty vacant acres west of the Port Washington Road properties would also be developed.

Cobalt, which recently received approval to build a two-story office and bank building on the corner of Port and Mequon roads, plans to add a 2,000 square-foot addition to the former Grapes and Grain building just north of the intersection and remodel the existing building.

Hotel, retail, office and more

During a consultation with the commission Monday night, Scott Yauck of Cobalt Partners outlined a sweeping plan that would include retail and office space, a Courtyard by Marriott hotel with a bar, restaurant and banquet facilities for 300 people and multi-family housing spread over the 28 acres.

The hotel, a building housing a restaurant and retail space, a commercial office building and another retail building would be located on four points around a city plaza, an open space that could be used as a focal point for music programs, outdoor sales of plants or other activities similar to those found in the Town Square at the Bayshore Town Center.

Most of the housing would be located on the vacant 20-acre parcel although there is a proposal for a building with retail on the first floor and residences on the floors above on the northernmost parcel, which is one parcel south of Homestead Trail.

Yauck said the end result would be a walkable retail district with sidewalks, benches, planters, trees and pocket parks. He said the project would likely be built in phases over a three-year period.

Neighbors raise questions

Two residents spoke, both raising questions about the development. Mike Breese, owner of the Chalet Motel, questioned the addition of a hotel in an area where hotels have struggled with occupancy rates in recent years.

Carryn Sami, who lives on Homestead Trail, was concerned about a proposed street in the development plan that would run across the back yards of houses on her street. Sami said her back yard floods when there are heavy rains, another concern if the wetland area just south of her house is developed.

Although there are many questions to be answered about the proposal, ranging from its impact on traffic and homes on Homestead Trail and Linwood Lane to utility needs, proposed development on the 20-acre site which includes wetland areas, to the future of the overhead power lines on Port Washington Road, the reaction of the Plan Commission members seemed cautiously favorable.

TIF funds needed

Yauck indicated that the proposed development would benefit from the creation of a tax-incremental finance district to help with the relocation of existing businesses and with infrastructure improvements. Without the TIF, he said the project would likely not go forward.

Work on the Grapes and Grain building, which will house a Starbucks and additional retail space when completed, is scheduled to start in six to eight weeks. Yauck said he has been waiting to get a reaction to the proposal for additional development in order to tie the exterior of Grapes and Grain into the redevelopment area.

While the city's portion of the Town Center at Mequon and Cedarburg roads has not attracted the development city leaders hoped for, Don Zien of CB Richard Ellis, a commercial real estate company, said he has received calls from business owners about this area.

"From a retail perspective, this is location driven," Zien said. "This is a special spot."

Yauck said both the expansion of Port Washington Road and the visibility from Interstate 43 make for a prime location.

The land now has a value of $2.6 million with improvements valued at $1.2 million. Yauck said with redevelopment, the improvements, including the bank and Grapes and Grain building, would total $42 million.

Mayor Curt Gielow, who has been an advocate for new business in the city, was cautious.

"I need to be convinced this will not fail," he said.

Yauck plans to return with a request to create planned unit development zoning and more detailed plans for the site.


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