Will Aldermen Support Meijer at Drexel Town Square?
The Oak Creek Common Council will have a say on the Drexel Town Square site plan, which now includes a Meijer store.
The proposal for a Meijer store that would anchor the Drexel Town Square development project still has a ways to go before it comes to fruition.
Contracts have not been signed; public meetings are yet to be held. And, importantly, city approvals have not been granted.
The site plan unveiled Tuesday night will undergo an extensive review process inside the doors at Oak Creek City Hall. The Plan Commission will consider the proposal and hold a public hearing before forwarding a recommendation to the Common Council, which makes the final decision.
Not only does the overall site plan need approval, but individual components of the project will go through the approval process as well. In addition to Meijer, a new downtown with shops leading to a town square is proposed, as is a residential component on the west end of the property.
A new city hall and library will also be built on the property, located at the corner of Drexel and Howell avenues. Construction on those buildings is scheduled to begin later this year.
It's far too early to predict whether Meijer, the plan's most controversial aspect and one that has drawn immediate criticism from residents, will pass. So far, during Tuesday's presentation and in interviews with Oak Creek Patch, aldermen have offered mixed reactions.
Alderman Dan Jakubczyk, the only alderman running in a contested election this spring, said during the meeting he supports the plans.
While the development will take many years to complete, by the time it's up and running, "I think the citizens of Oak Creek are going to be proud of this project," he said.
"I back this project," Jakubczyk said.
Alderman Dan Bukiewicz was receptive to the plans, noting the complexity with such a large site and many entities needing to be involved.
"Oak Creek has a chance to redefine itself and I think we’re on the right path," Bukiewicz said during the meeting. "It's up to the city and developers to have the frame of mind to make this the type of development that we want it to be."
In an interview, Alderman Tom Michalski said he needs to be convinced that Meijer will actually draw people into the downtown portion of the development.
"Will (Meijer shoppers) really come in and patronize the various other businesses nearby? I don't know enough about what type of clientele is drawn to Meijer, but that might not be the case," he said.
He also wants to know what will happen if the city rejects Meijer. That may be risky as well and hamper the rest of the project if the city waits years for someone else to come along, Michalski said.
Alderman Ken Gehl said he has "expressed reservations" about how things have gone since the council voted in February to relocate the City Hall and library to the site.
A big box store wasn't what he had in mind when he voted in favor of the relocation, Gehl said. But it became apparent relatively quickly the retail market wouldn't support the original idea, which was a collection of "junior box" stores on the east end of the property.
"It's certainly not what I wanted or what I anticipated," Gehl said in an interview. "If push comes to shove, my ultimate (goal) is to make sure the development is successful ... I am not willing to sit with that site empty."
Aldermen Mike Toman and Jim Ruetz did not return messages Thursday.
Mayor Steve Scaffidi would typically break a tie, but he signaled he is likely to decline casting a vote and leave it up to the council to come to a consensus. He said he wants to avoid the controversy that ensued following Mayor Al Foeckler's tiebreaking vote in February to include the city hall and library in the Drexel Town Square plans.
The next step? Developers will get the opinions of residents at a public meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Feb. 11 at the Oak Creek Community Center.
Check out Patch's special section for archived coverage on the Drexel Town Square redevelopment project.