From now until the end of the year, Patch will be looking back at 10 stories that shaped Oak Creek in 2012.
- Part I:
- Part II: Scaffidi Elected Oak Creek Mayor
- Part III: Grass Fire Puts Halt to Oak Creek Fireworks
- Part IV: Knights Are State Baseball Champs
- Part V: Drexel Interchange Opens
- Part VI: Knights Close Out Undefeated Regular Season
Our seventh installment: the unveiling of plans for the former Delphi site, which will be redeveloped into a mixed-use town center called Drexel Town Square. The project aims to create a new downtown for Oak Creek.
The following column was originally posted May 10.
The Oak Creek Plan Commission on Tuesday night got its first extensive look at the updated plans for the former Delphi site -- now called Drexel Town Square.
I wrote about the plans over the weekend, but Wispark President Jerry Franke provided some more detail and some of the thinking behind it.
Here's a look at some things I found interesting from Franke's presentation. And there were many.
Why 'Drexel Town Square'?
The new Drexel Interchange that will be in place by the end of the year will become one of the main entrances to the community, Franke said. After 2012, the Ryan Road and Rawson Avenue interchanges will be reconstructed, so for some time motorists on Interstate 94 will have to enter Oak Creek through Drexel Avenue by default.
And the "town square" part of the name reflects the value that Wispark and the city are putting on the town square portion of the development.
Thus, you have the name Drexel Town Square.
The apartments planned for the western part of the 85-acre development are not going to be run-of-the-mill, Franke said.
They will have amenities like under-building parking, and built to condominium standards so that if the condo market ever comes back, an easy conversion could be made.
"It will not be your typical suburban apartment complex," Franke said. "We are pounding that in to our prospective apartment development partners. They understand the city does not want to see more of the same old, standard two-bedroom."
Franke said people ranging from young professionals to baby boomers don't want to be tied down by home ownership and are now renting as opposed to buying. And that is "probably not a short-term phenomenon," he said.
Officials are also planning an assisted living facility on the northwestern portion of the development.
And on the southwest side of the former Delphi land is a pond that does not exist there now. Not only will storm water be managed there, but officials see it as another draw.
Paddle-boats or similar types of activities on that body of water will help make Drexel Town Square the "center of activity" that is desired, Franke said.
It's abundantly clear that the town square itself is the biggest point of emphasis for Wispark and city officials.
The square will be at the end of a walkable Main Street, which will feature buildings with first-floor retail and apartments on the second floor.
On the two-acre town square, ice skating, a splash pond and farmers market are planned. Next to that will be the city hall and library, as well as some food options.
"What happened at Bayshore is that there was resistance to (the town square) at the beginning, now all restaurants want to be on it," Franke said.
But perhaps the biggest challenge is making sure that the city hall and library, expected to be completed in 2014, aren't by their lonesome when they open. Franke and others want the Main Street to be well on its way by then.
"We've got to push very hard to get that Main Street core developed as quickly as possible," Franke said. "That's what we're going to focus on with the most intensity because we think the stuff to the east and the west will come a little easier. It's not going to be easy, but it will be easier than the Main Street."
It's still not known what the design of the city hall and library will look like. The plan shows two buildings connected by a common area, but that could change, said Doug Seymour, director of community development.
Current market conditions simply can't support a retail-heavy Drexel Town Square, Franke said.
Those conditions are caused by factors both global -- the Internet taking its toll on in-person shops -- and local, notably Southridge Mall cranking up its redevelopment efforts.
"We're not going to fill this up with retail space," Franke said.
That said, the eastern portion of the site will have some retail, including junior box stores. Sit-down, mid- to upper-price-level restaurants and specialty food stores, in the vein of a Trader Joes or Fresh Market (as examples), could also be seen there.
Franke said the current iteration of Drexel Town Square, released Friday to coincide with the Drexel Interchange groundbreaking, shows "way too much parking." It will likely be scaled back as plans move along.
Franke and city officials are heading to Las Vegas next week to attend the International Council of Shopping Centers convention, but don't look for any major news to come from there.
The trip won't be about signing leases, but testing the market and gauging the reception to the plans.
"We will take what we learn and see if we need to modify our approach and go from there," Franke said.