Zoning change gives owner of West Falls Center more marketing options
The Grafton Village Board this week decided to do what it can to help breathe new life into the former Grafton State Bank building.
By agreeing to rezone the property that houses the seven-story structure at 101 Falls Rd. from office to community business use, the board paved the way for the owner to recruit additional tenants, including a bank.
The 42,000-square-foot building, now known as the West Falls Center, has been adding tenants since it was purchased last year by Brian Nelson, a Milwaukee area real-estate investor.
The village’s plan to remove retail uses, including banks with drive-throughs, from the office zoning would limit the marketing options, officials said.
But Monday’s decision, which was recommended by the Plan Commission, allows drive-through banks as well as personal and professional service business currently in the building. The latter include an orthodontist, podiatrist and counseling center.
In a report to the commission, Village Planning and Development Director Jessica Wolff backed the rezoning.
“The property owner is requesting rezoning to a more appropriate zoning district that reflects the life cycle of the building while still providing for the possibility of a financial institution,” she said.
Built in 1973, West Falls Center is Ozaukee County’s tallest building and a centerpiece of the village’s South Commercial District. The building was developed by Grafton State Bank until it was purchased by BMO Harris Bank in 2008.
BMO Harris Bank operated a branch office at the site until 2012, when it was closed and the building was put up for sale. The property was eventually purchased by Nelson’s group, West Falls Center LLC, in June 2013.
The building now has about 70% occupancy. Among its other tenants are law firms, information technology companies and Philly’s Premium Beverages, a business that produces old-fashioned cocktails and other beverages.
Philly’s leases 3,500 square feet on the top floor.
Nelson told the village he is actively searching for a bank to lease the building’s ground floor, which has a lobby, offices and a vault. The banking space also includes seven drive-through lanes.