Oak Creek and Franklin officials believe a planned expansion at Wheaton Franciscan Hospital could help pick up the pace on efforts to redevelop 27th Street.
Wheaton is planning to build a 65,000-square-foot building on what is now a cornfield to the north of its Franklin facility, 10101 S. 27th St. The expansion is expected to eventually create about 100 new jobs.
Pending Franklin city approvals, construction is expected to begin in late summer and be finished by late spring or early summer of 2013, hospital president Dan Mattes said.
The expansion will allow the hospital to provide more cardiac services for its patients.
"What happens is if someone has a heart attack, they have to be transferred," Mattes said. "Beginning in 2014, that will no longer have to happen.
"Our anticipation is that everybody in Franklin and Oak Creek and surrounding communities come here for all of their services. They no longer leave the community and drive to Milwaukee for services."
Franklin Mayor Tom Taylor said Wheaton's continued growth could lead to a regional medical center, similar to the area of Wauwatosa that is home to Froedtert, Children's Hospital and GE Healthcare.
When those facilities were created, development including hotels and restaurants sprang up around it, Taylor said. He believes the same thing could happen here.
"This is a very, very great plus for the area," Taylor said.
Development efforts along 27th Street have been slow. But Taylor said they may be reaching a turning point with the Wheaton expansion and Drexel Interchange on its way.
Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi agreed, adding that it's important for Franklin and Oak Creek to work together on improving the 27th Street corridor.
"Mayor Taylor and I are pledging and willing to work together on development," Scaffidi said. "We have to. It's a shared border, and everything they do impacts us and vice versa."
Taylor and Scaffidi both noted how Gov. Scott Walker talked about 27th Street in remarks at the Drexel Interchange groundbreaking, showing how important the corridor is to the area.
Alderman Tom Michalski, who represents part of the Oak Creek side of 27th Street, said the addition could benefit neighboring businesses by bringing more workers and people to the area. New restaurants like and could see an uptick in business, for example.
"Any addition onto the hospital will add to the traffic counts and to the people working at the facility, and will aid in getting any kind of work done on 27th Street," Michalski said.