Written by Bill Schanen IV
Wednesday, 29 December 2010 19:10
SHOWING OFF AN elaborate plaque that will recognize those who contribute to a fund to purchase a new Port Washington High School grand piano were (from left) Sue Kruske, Choral Director Dennis Gephart and Russ Klotz. Klotz, who made the plaque, and Kruske are of members of the school’s Music Booster Club, which is spearheading the fundraiser. Photo by Sam Arendt
Port High parent group aims to buy new grand piano for school
A Port Washington High School parent group has launched a fundraiser it hopes will strike a chord with the community.
The Music Booster Club is attempting to raise about $76,000 to purchase a new concert grand piano to replace one that is older than anyone can remember.
“Our current piano is so old that no one in the school district knows how long it has been around,” said Dennis Gephart, the school’s choral director.
The parent group is selling keys on an elaborate “Key Contributors” piano plaque that was recently mounted outside the high school auditorium. Each key has been assigned a dollar value ranging from $150 to $5,000 for middle C. Donors, who can purchase a single key or an entire octave, will be recognized by name on the plaque.
The plaque is the work of Port Washington resident Russ Klotz and was donated to the school by him and his wife Yvonne as a way “to give back to a great school,” he said.
“My wife and I just want to express our thanks to the school for all the opportunities granted to both our children,” said Klotz, who’s a technology education teacher at Brown Deer High School.
Particularly inspiring for the couple has been the school’s music program, which last year claimed national recognition when its a cappella group Limited Edition won the High School A-Cappella Championship in New York. The Klotzes’ daughter Tori, who is a senior this year, is a member of the group.
“The trip to New York and winning the championship was an amazing experience,” Mrs. Klotz said.
Gephart and Music Booster members hope the school’s commitment to music will inspire more donations.
“There are so many people who have sung behind our current piano,” Gephart said. “We hope some of these people feel strongly about supporting the music program.”
Since announcing the fundraiser two weeks ago, the club has received four donations worth about $2,000. Those contributions are in addition to an anonymous gift of $5,000, one of three checks for identical amounts also given to the music departments at Lincoln Elementary School and Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Port Washington.
“We still have no idea who the donor is,” Gephart said. “We’ve even tried to give thank-you notes to the bank in the hope they could pass them along to the donor, but the bank wouldn’t do it.”
With a piano so old it’s difficult to play, the Port High music department knew just how to spend the $5,000.
“Having a good piano is just huge for a choral program,” Gephart said. “It enhances what I’m able to do with the students, and a choir really responds to a quality sound.
“The piano we have now is difficult to keep in tune and so hard to use that I really can’t have the kids play it.”
Years ago, the school’s Henry F. Miller grand piano was sent to Germany to be refurbished. In the process of “re-dipping” it, markings that would reveal its age were covered up, Gephart said.
“Our best guess is that it’s between 85 and 90 years old,” he said.
Music Booster Club members are hoping their campaign is another in a series of successful fundraising efforts to benefit the Port Washington-Saukville School District.
Parent groups have raised money for a new soccer field, swimming pool improvements and, most recently, new high school gym bleachers.
“That really says a lot about the people of this community and their willingness to support our schools,” Gephart said.
Gephart said donation forms will soon be available on the Port Washington High School portion of the district Web site at www.pwssd.k12.wi.us. On the Port High page, select music from the departments tab. For additional information, call 268-5627.
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm
Wednesday, 22 December 2010 19:35
By KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff
Downtown Port Washington will get a holiday gift in the new year as two businesses prepare to open shop in the former Lueptow’s furniture store on Franklin Street.
The businesses — Lakeshore Kitchen and Funky Fine Arts — will be the first tenants in what building owner Merton Lueptow hopes will become a mall.
“I’m developing an area called the Shoppes of Port Washington,” Lueptow said Tuesday. “This is the start.”
The concept is to have a number of small businesses, primarily retailers, occupying spaces in an open-style mall, Lueptow said.
“It could be a start-up business, a shop in another community that wants to open a branch here or a small established business,” he said.
The first tenants, he said, are businesses that are somewhat established.
Lakeshore Kitchen is run by local contractors Brian Marquardt and Peter Burke, who have been doing kitchen remodeling but need a showroom, Lueptow said, noting they expect to open in late January. Funky Fine Arts is operated by Deb Melton, a local artist, and is expected to open in mid-January.
“They are both in business now, but they don’t have the space to do what they want to,” Lueptow said.
He envisions the former furniture store could become home to anywhere from 10 to 20 shops, depending on the space each requires.
Because of the way the space will be set up, shop owners can work together in a variety of ways, Lueptow said, adding he hopes the current tenants will spur other businesses.
TWO BUSINESSES will make their home in downtown Port Washington next month as tenants of the former Lueptow’s furniture building. Photo by Bill Schanen IV“I’m hoping a group of artists will come in,” he said. “Other home-improvement shops would fit well.”
Lueptow said the mall concept is an ideal use for the building, which has largely stood vacant since Lueptow’s Furniture and Appliance closed three years ago.
“There’s no other space in Port Washington where you can rent just 250 square feet,” he said. “Most of the buildings in downtown are about 1,000 square feet.”
Lueptow said he’s been working on the concept of creating a mall in his former store for about a year. Although the building has been for sale since the furniture store closed, the sputtering economy and lack of buyers forced him to come up with a new idea for the space.
“I came to realize there was nobody big enough to use the whole area by themself,” he said. “I’m adjusting to what tenants are looking for.
“I’m excited. I think this will be good for Port Washington.”
There’s been a lot of interest in the space, Lueptow said.
“As the economy is loosening up, we’re seeing more interest,” he said.
City Administrator Mark Grams said it will be good to see the building occupied once again.
“It’ll be nice to have those businesses in there,” he said.
Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development, said Lueptow’s plan is a good short-term solution to fill the empty building.
“This gives him the most options,” he said. “There aren’t buyers jumping right now. Filling the space is better than leaving it empty. It will give people options downtown.”
But when the building sells, Tetzlaff said, the use will likely change.
“If someone’s going to buy it, they’re going to buy it to redevelop it,” he said.
Written by Bill Schanen IV
Wednesday, 15 December 2010 19:34
FRANKLIN ENERGY is scheduled to move its Port Washington offices into the Smith Bros. Marketplace building this weekend.
Photo by Bill Schanen IV
Firm’s relocation to Smith Bros. building clears way for new Port senior center, sale of city’s historic firehouse
Franklin Energy Services will move into its new downtown Port Washington headquarters in the Smith Bros. Marketplace building this weekend, setting in motion a unique lease agreement with the city.
Company spokeswoman Jan Peiffer said the firm will have vacated its current offices in a remodeled church on Foster Street in Port Washington by Monday, clearing the way for the city to lease the building for use as a new senior center.
The city, in turn, will vacate the historic firehouse on Wisconsin Street that now serves as a senior center perhaps by March, City Administrator Mark Grams said. Aldermen have decided to sell the building,
which the Port Washington Historical Society has said it would like to use as a museum.
The deal was designed to not only keep the fast-growing energy-efficiency program management firm in Port Washington, but encourage it to move downtown to a virtually unoccupied landmark building. The only other tenant in the spacious former Smith Bros. Restaurant is a coffee shop.
The agreement also provides the city with a new senior center to replace its current, cramped facility, which is in need of significant maintenance work.
The city has agreed to a three-year lease with KAB Enterprises, which owns the remodeled church and leases it to Franklin Energy, that will cost the city about $222,000. The city also plans to invest between $200,000 and $246,000 in improvements to the building, bringing the total three-year cost for the senior center move to as much as $468,000.
After three years, the city has the option to purchase the building for $550,000 — a move that would bring the total city cost close to $1 million. It could also renew its lease or move to a different site. Officials
said they think the remodeled church will make a good senior center but consider it an interim location.
Grams said this week that although the city will very shortly be free to move into remodeled church, it will probably be March before it is ready to accommodate the senior center. The city still has to have its plans for the building approved by the state, and the remodeling work, which includes the installation of an elevator, could take several months.
The work for Franklin Energy, however, is just about completed, Peiffer said. The company will be operating out of its offices on the second floor of the Smith Bros. building by Monday.
Initially, 41 employees will be working out of the downtown offices, Peiffer said, adding that number is expected to increase.
“We have about 30 job openings, although not all the people that will be hired will be working out of this location,” she said.
The Common Council is expected next week to finalize changes that will provide parking for Franklin Energy employes at the north end of the north slip section of the marina, Grams said.
Founded in 1994 by longtime Port Washington resident and current CEO Paul Schueller, Franklin Energy Services was purchased in October by Cortec Group, a New York private equity firm, from Brass Ring Capital, a Milwaukee-based private
At the time of the sale, Schueller said the company remains committed to Port Washington. It has signed a 7-1/2-year lease for the Smith Bros. property.
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm
Wednesday, 08 December 2010 19:18
Removal of contaminated soils, concrete expected to pave way for construction of long-delayed ‘green’ business
Heavy equipment that removed contaminated soils and concrete from the former Clark gas station on Grand Avenue in Port Washington last week marked the end of environmental issues on the property, owner Rick Fulop said.
Once he receives a letter from the State of Wisconsin confirming a clean site, Fulop said, work on a long-awaited “green” gas station and convenience store can commence.
“We still have every intention of moving forward. That hasn’t changed,” he said. “It’s been a very long and arduous process. But once I get the letter from the State of Wisconsin, then I can proceed. The environmental work has taken all my time. The focus has been getting that approval.
“I always knew it was coming. It was just a matter of time.”
The work done last week will also settle city concerns about the appearance of the site, Fulop said.
“It was a little disheveled,” he said.
Fulop said he will sit down with architect Mike Ehrlich of Haag Müller to revise his plan slightly, making the proposed store about 600 square feet larger than originally planned.
The basic plan won’t change, he emphasized, adding that he’s unsure whether the proposed changes would require additional city approval.
However, because of the amount of time that has passed since he took out a building permit, Fulop said he may need to reapply for the permit.
He has financing in place for the project, Fulop said.
“I already have hundreds of hours invested in this project,” he said. “I don’t foresee any problems.”
When asked when construction was expected to begin, he answered, “Thirteen months ago. I am down much longer than I anticipated.
“I was scheduled to be down for nine months.”
It’s been more than two years since he closed the door of the gas station on Oct. 31, 2008.
The delay, he said, was due to a number of things, including bureaucratic delays and the economic environment.
He remains excited about the plan, Fulop said.
“The state is very much in favor of the project, too,” he said. “I wish I was open already.”
If all goes according to plan, Fulop said, the new station will open sometime next year. To do that, he added, he will have to break ground on the new station no later than May.
“The plan is to do that,” he said.
The project continues to pique the curiosity of his former customers, Fulop said.
“There’s not a place I go in the city where people aren’t saying to me that they can’t wait for us to reopen,” Fulop said. “That’s encouraging. The support that’s out there two years later just reinforces our determination to get this done.”