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Former trailer park is a tough sell for Port PDF Print E-mail
Daily News
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Wednesday, 18 October 2017 18:08

CDA tackles issue of how to market vacant land on Port’s south side

    Port Washington’s Community Development Authority is looking for a few good ideas on what to do with the city-owned former trailer park property on South Spring Street.
    “It’s a challenging piece of property,” Mayor Tom Mlada said, noting overhead power lines cross the 1-3/4-acre site and a larger trailer park is immediately to the south.
    “I don’t want to be content sitting on my hands hoping someone discovers it.”
    The CDA purchased the property, which was once home to seven trailers, in 2007 with the intent of facilitating its redevelopment.
    There was little interest in the land after the recession hit the following year, but last year the city erected a “for sale” sign on the property.
    There haven’t been any offers, but a number of people have looked at it, said Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development.
    One person wanted to place mini-warehouses on the property, he said.
    “We said thanks but no thanks,” Tetzlaff said.
    Another sought to purchase both the city land and the adjoining trailer park, consolidating them and creating an upscale mobile home park, but couldn’t come to an agreement with the neighboring property owner, he said.
    Several others looked at it for a pocket neighborhood, but the overhead lines, railroad tracks on the east side of the property and the trailer park detracted too much, Tetzlaff said.
    Also detracting from the property is the nearby vacant Mama Mia’s restaurant building. An online auction of items from the building is set for next week, Tetzlaff said.
    Now, Mlada said, the city is paying to maintain the property, but with the right development it could help define the city’s south gateway and spur redevelopment of other nearby properties.
    Funds from the sale of the land could aid in those efforts, he added.
    “If a number of dominos fell into place, it would make the area more attractive,” Mlada said, and it could open the door to other improvements in the area.
    “My fear is we’re going to hand in a perpetual holding pattern unless we do something different,” Mlada said. “We need to do something here.”
    He suggested the city seek proposals from developers for the land or hire a group like Community Design Solutions, which created a redevelopment plan for five downtown properties in 2014, to create a plan for the area.
    Noting that CDS is comprised of students from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, CDA member Jason Wittek said the city needs to “bite the bullet” and hire a professional to plan for the area.
    “I don’t think you can talk about that area in a vacuum,” he said. “I think there are so many options. If we’re serious, we’ve got a lot of neighborhood planning to do.”
    Member Bill Prince agreed, and proposed the city seek ideas from residents via social media.
    “Let’s see if we get 200 crazy ideas and three good ones,” he said. “I would value the input of locals more than that of six students who haven’t been to Port Washington before.”
    That would also help quell the frustration of the public, Wittek said, noting that many of those upset about the proposed downtown redevelopment feel officials haven’t listened to them.
    “I think the process is what the public has really beaten us up for,” he said. “We’re at a point where we have to do more public engagement.”
    But CDA member Rory Palubiski suggested that an outside opinion can be equally important, noting they don’t hold preconceived ideas about the area and aren’t jaded by the political process.
    The committee agreed to seek input via social media and also to set a public informational meeting to seek ideas from residents.
    That meeting is tentatively set for Monday, Jan. 15.
    “We can take the conversation from there,” CDA Chairman Mike Ehrlich said. Daily Press