A comprehensive plan for redeveloping the Oak Creek lakefront took another step forward Tuesday night as the city continues its quest to transform a currently-desolate area.
The Oak Creek Plan Commission unanimously recommended adopting what is essentially a roadmap for the 250 empty acres north of . It now goes to the Common Council for final approval.
After three public meetings last year, Oak Creek officials formulated a plan that calls for a mix of private and public investment. It includes residential, commercial, retail and a park. (Read more specifics about the plans and view the entire lakefront redevelopment action plan here)
City officials will look to gradually implement each of the plan's components over the next several years. Every step will require a thorough vetting and public deliberation before it can go through.
The plan can be modified at any time and does not lock the city into any spending.
One of its key parts is public access, officials said.
"It really opens up that area to the public and gives that area back to Oak Creek," said Doug Seymour, director of community development, "by providing a significant public park and open space along the lake, while still allowing for private development and taxpaying development toward Fifth Avenue.
"It really complements the things that the county has done with Bender Park ... that lakeshore (is) a very precious resource and one that many communities would love to have."
Before any of it can happen, remediation work will continue, Seymour said. The property was formerly home to large manufacturers and has many environmental issues that need to be cleaned up. That process will continue throughout 2012.
After the remedial work is done, a park along the shoreline figures to be the first piece of the plan that can be implemented, Seymour said. Construction could start in late 2012 or 2013.
Beyond that, the lakefront's future depends on funding options, developer interest and the priorities of the Common Council. Three aldermen and the mayor's position are up for election in April.
Though much is still uncertain, city officials, as they did throughout 2011, continued to sound optimistic tones at the Plan Commission meeting Tuesday.
New Mayor Al Foeckler, appointed in December to fill the remainder of the late Mayor Dick Bolender's term, said he was excited watching from the "outside" last year as plans for the lakefront took shape.
"I don't know if anyone in Oak Creek really considers us a 'lakeshore community.' And we are," Foeckler said. "We can showcase this, not only on a broad sense, but just for our residents.
"This isn't a plan where we're putting big houses up against the lake so that a few wealthy people can enjoy the views. This is done for the public."
Seymour credited Bolender for working vigorously to help redevelopment efforts and said the plan reflects his commitment to providing public access.
"It's an excellent plan that is implementable - it's not going to sit on the shelf," he said. "We're not going to sit here 10 to 20 years from now and say, 'Boy, this is one of those failed starts-and-stops that has happened so many (times) with the city.' It's going to happen. We have resources available to make it happen.
"I would urge all of you to hold our feet to the fire on this. Hold your elected officials accountable to make sure this does happen."