Dohrwardt says Fredonia looking for ways to meet area’s development needs
Members of the fledgling Fredonia Area Chamber of Commerce were told they could be key players in the future of the community during the group’s first State of the Village address.
The session was held Thursday, Feb. 25, at the newly opened Islands Restaurant in the former Waubeka Fire Hall building.
Fredonia Village President Don Dohrwardt was the featured speaker and said the community is poised for a surge in economic development.
Dohrwardt is himself a local businessman. He runs Don’s Fredonia Greenhouse with his wife Lisa, one of the founders of the Fredonia Chamber.
“We have seen how economic development has come to places like Mequon, Grafton and Saukville,” Dohrwardt told the assembled business leaders.
“We are next in line and if we are not ready to take our turn, development will move elsewhere and that opportunity may never come back.”
Dohrwardt said he has been giving considerable thought to where that business growth might come.
With space essentially exhausted in the village’s 25-year-old industrial park, he said, attention has now shifted to farmland, specifically on the north village limits.
“In recent years, we have spent a considerable amount of time talking about a possible bike path in the village, which is not unimportant, but for the community I think an industrial park is more important,” Dohrwardt said.
He said land west of Highway 57 in the area of Cedar Valley Road “all the way to Highway D” would be ideal for future industrial development, although it would be almost certainly too expensive for the village to acquire outright.
Instead, Dohrwardt suggested creating a land consortium where local landowners could partner with the community to reap the financial benefits of development.
Such a consortium, he said, could involve offering premiums to enhance the value of land sold for development and the creation of easements to ensure the needed access is in place.
That complicated process would likely take years to put into motion, Dohrwardt said.
He said a much shorter timeline may be possible for the redevelopment of Fredonia Avenue, the community’s key commercial corridor.
“We’ve just gone through a two-year ordeal rebuilding that road, and it was an ordeal,” Dohrwardt said, especially noting the hardships for businesses.
“I think the project turned out well, but heading west from Highway 57, you are looking at an unattractive, run-down downtown. To be honest, if a lot of it burned down, I wouldn’t miss it.”
Dohrwardt said he would like to see an “opportunity district” created in the downtown business corridor.
“I am talking about new buildings that look new. It would be an opportunity to revitalize our downtown to where it should be,” he said.
Dohrwardt said he couldn’t place a timeline on that type of makeover, adding, “I don’t expect to have it all done by next Tuesday.”
Dohrwardt said the village has been in close contact with Ozaukee Economic Development to identify land and vacant buildings ready for development.
One such site, he said, is the former day-care building on the east end of Fredonia Avenue.
“I have always thought that would be an ideal location for a restaurant,” Dohrwardt said.
Northern Ozaukee Schools Supt. Dave Karrels also spoke about the status of the local school district, pointing to interest in strengthening relationships with area businesses.
One such example, Karrels said, was the recent offer of eight pallets of cleaning wipes from Guy & O’Neill, a Fredonia manufacturing company.
“It was a simple contact, but it opened up the lines of communication between the company and the district. That is something we want to do more of in the business community,” he said.
Chamber President Annie Stadler, manager of the local branch office of Port Washington State Bank, said she was proud of the group’s initial community outreach effort, noting there were 16 people at the dinner meeting.
“I am pleased with the turnout, especially for a small community like Fredonia,” Stadler said.