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City officials crack down on owner of Simplicity site PDF Print E-mail
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Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 24 May 2017 20:03

Improvements have been made to defunct factory, but Port officials not satisfied


    Port Washington officials, who have been working to see improvements to the former Simplicity property for more than a year, are taking a hard line with the property owner.
    Following a closed session last week, aldermen directed the city attorney to move ahead with building code enforcement actions pending a final report on whether the improvements made to the property and the materials used comply with the city codes.

 “I think we’re at a little bit of an impasse here,” Mayor Tom Mlada said. “To his credit, the property owner has taken correction on 80% to 85% of the items, but we have some unresolved issues.”
    At issue are some of the materials used in repairing windows in some of the buildings and whether they were installed properly, City Administrator Mark Grams said.
    “Right now, it’s pretty much in Gary (Peterson, the city’s building inspector)’s hands,” he said.
    In March, Peterson provided a report of steps taken by property owner Christopher Coakley to fix some of the issues on the property at 500 N. Spring St.
    These ranged from minor things, such as replacing an overhead door and fixing a downspout, to major items such as roof repairs.
    But the city wants to see more than just improvements to the buildings on the site. Officials see redevelopment of the 24-acre industrial site as a key to realizing the goals in the city’s 2035 economic development plan.
    “There’s a lot that could be done,” Mlada told the Community Development Authority recently, noting that the buildings are primarily used for storage and warehousing, with some manufacturing.
    “Even when this corrective stuff is done, it’s not enough. It needs to be better than cold storage.”
    While Coakley is undertaking some large projects, such as restoring the old Chair Factory warehouse on the property, there are some small steps recommended by the city and agreed to by Coakley that would be inexpensive but that he hasn’t made any progress on, Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development, told the CDA.
    Coakley told the city last year that his goal is to bring in businesses that will create jobs. He said he is actively seeking tenants for the property, but said it’s difficult to make improvements without knowing who the tenants will be.
    “You’re trying to foresee what the needs of that next industrial tenant are,” he said. “It doesn’t usually work that way.”
    Members of the CDA agreed that more needs to be done, but they noted that Coakley has done a lot to the property.
    “It’s still an improvement,” member Rory Palubiski said.
    Officials are counting on redevelopment of the Simplicity site as essential to meeting the goals of the city’s 2035 economic development plan.
    The plan outlines six steps that need to be taken to ensure that 20% to 22% of the city’s equalized valuation comes from commercial and manufacturing uses, which in turn will ensure a balanced local economy where there are family-supporting jobs for residents.
    In addition to improvements on the Simplicity site, the plan calls for development of the south bluff, lakefront redevelopment, expansion of the industrial park and the creation of commercial sites on the city’s north side.
    Simplicity had been a cornerstone of Port Washington’s industrial community for 86 years before the factory and offices were closed by Briggs & Stratton in 2008. Coakley purchased the property shortly before Simplicity closed its doors.

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