Crowd of residents, business owners gives Port planners ideas on how to develop six city sites for future use
More than 85 people turned out Monday night to help Port Washington planners create a new vision for six sites in downtown.
Their goal, said Mayor Tom Mlada, was to give a fresh look to the sites and come up with concepts for what they want and don’t want on these properties to create a vision that will lead development now and into the future.
“We can either take the opportunity now or let it slip through our fingers,” Mlada said. “We can direct the growth or we can react to it.
“Other communities around us are defined. Port Washington is still defining itself.”
Developers who have looked at various sites in the downtown have estimated that new developments could add $20 million to $25 million, he added.
Whatever development may result from the process will likely be done over time, Mlada said.
“I think you’re looking at a phased-type approach,” he said, noting it may take some time before some of the property owners are ready to sell or redevelop their land.
“I think there’s a possibility for some of these things to happen short-term, but I think it will take some time for it all to happen.”
Development of one or more of the properties could spur additional development, Mlada added, given the proximity of several sites.
“These could be truly catalytic,” he said.
Mlada noted that the sites examined by the group Monday were culled from about 10 redevelopment sites examined by the city’s Community Development Authority.
The crowd, broken into small groups, considered four development sites — a large site encompassing the Jadair Inc. property at 235 W. Grand Ave. east to Wisconsin Street; the north end of the Port Harbor Center at 222 E. Main St.; property occupied by Victor’s Pier Street Shanty at 301 E. Pier St. and a parking lot to the east; and the Portabello Pizza property at 218 E. Washington St.
They also looked at two public open spaces — the parking lot at the north end of the north slip marina and Main Street from Milwaukee Street to the lake.
The sites offer a variety of development points, representatives from Community Design Solutions, the city’s downtown planning consultant, said.
The Jadair site has a densely wooded area, creek access and limited views of Lake Michigan in a part of downtown seldom noticed by residents, said Amber Piacentine of CDS, while the former grocery store at the shopping center, located steps from the marina “is an awesome location. The fact it’s been vacant so long is kind of baffling.”
The other two development properties are also located near the lakefront, she noted.
The parking lot could become an entry to the marina and a focal point on the lakefront, Piacentine said, while Main Street could be closed to traffic and be converted to a destination with enhanced markets and events year-round.
The groups came up with a number of potential uses for each property, CDS’s Ryan Shortridge said, offering a quick look at options mentioned by several groups after the brainstorming session.
For example, the Jadair site was often referred to as a multi-use property with residential uses and the potential for artists lofts or a performing arts center, he said.
The shopping center has potential as a micro-brewery or banquet hall, perhaps with residences above, he said, adding several groups suggested the building be divided to offer lakefront views and access.
A banquet hall or permanent public market were among the suggestions for the Victor’s property, Shortridge said, adding it has the potential to become “an iconic site,” while the pizza property was frequently mentioned as a place where residences or a drive-through coffee shop could be created.
The north slip parking lot could be beautified and enhanced with a playground, water features like a splash pad and a bike rental facility, he said.
CDS will analyze the ideas suggested by the group Monday, then create a concept plan for the areas, Mlada said.
The group is expected to bring its ideas to the CDA as early as Sept. 15, then present them to the Common Council the following day, he said.
The city is considering holding a public meeting prior to the council meeting so residents can look at the results and comment on them, Mlada added.