Developer pumps brakes on Ozaukee Square project

In response to opposition, Shaffer says she’ll take time to scale back plan, won’t buy Theatre Square building, City Hall


Ozaukee Press staff

Mequon developer Cindy Shaffer said Tuesday she is pausing the Ozaukee Square project proposed for downtown Port Washington as she reworks plans for the development.

In response to comments from the public, Shaffer said, she is downsizing the project.

She no longer plans to buy the Old Theatre Square building at 116 W. Grand Ave., Shaffer said.

“I terminated the contract (to buy the structure),” she said, and she will no longer include Port City Hall in her plans.

“We’re looking at maybe doing a smaller version of the plan on Grand Avenue,” Shaffer said, one that incorporates the county parking lot and neighboring Family Promise building and land just to the north of that.

She said she also wants to develop the parking lot north of the Ozaukee County Administration Center, creating housing and a public square, although a new City Hall and library won’t be part of the plans.

“Obviously the scope of the project has changed,” she said, noting city officials told her to eliminate those structures from the development.

She won’t be presenting plans for her development to the city’s Plan Commission on Thursday, as was her original plan, Shaffer said.

“I’m listening. I understand where everyone’s coming from. I’m going to slow things down,” she said. “We’re pausing and rethinking.”

That isn’t a surprise, Bob Harris, the city’s director of planning and development, said.

“We’re just waiting to see what she comes up with,” he said. “There’s no need to rush.

“She’s taking a step back and reworking things, tweaking plans and looking at the numbers.”

Harris said he’s not surprised at the public push-back to Shaffer’s plans.

“It was a big proposal in downtown,” he said. “I was not at all surprised. People have some legitimate concerns.”

Shaffer’s original plan for Ozaukee Square called for her to acquire City Hall, Old Theatre Square  and the Family Promise building at 136 W. Grand Ave. and raze them, replacing them with an L-shaped, five-story building with 10,000 square feet of commercial space and about 90 apartments, as well as parking.

In the parking lot north of the Ozaukee County Administration Center and Historic Courthouse, she planned to create a public square with an L-shaped building against the hillside that would contain a mix of about 90 apartments, as well as space for a library and parking, with the public plaza in front.

The housing would be aimed at workers in the area, she said, and there would be enough parking in the buildings to not only accommodate renters but also the public.

But public reaction was mixed, with many people expressing concern about the scale of the buildings and the loss of historic buildings such as Old Theatre Square.

Although many people said the plans moved forward too quickly, Shaffer said she has been talking to city officials since April and included plans for City Hall and the library at their urging.

She also attended more than 20 meetings with officials and the public to discuss the project.

Shaffer said she will continue to work on her plans for Ozaukee Square, saying it would provide many things that are needed in the city.

Workforce housing is something that’s necessary, she said, as is parking.

Shaffer said she’s looked at plans for the new Inventors Brewpub at the marina and believes it requires more than 200 parking spaces.

So, she said, instead of a 20,000-square-foot library in the north building, she will likely look at a 10,000-square-foot food court or public market and 10,000 additional square feet of parking.

The public square is also important to the city, Shaffer said, noting that recent tragedies have pointed the safety risks involved in holding events on public streets, even if they’re blocked off.

“I still feel like this is a viable project,” she said. “I’m not giving up on this. I do love Port Washington.”

While she’s working on refining her plans for Ozaukee Square, Shaffer said, she will continue work on other projects, including The Farm, a 209-apartment development proposed for 12 acres on Port Washington’s southwest side.

Plans for that development will likely come to the Plan Commission in December or January, Shaffer said.




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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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