Optimism In The Air As Oak Creek Lakefront Plan Moves Forward

Public access an important part of lakefront's future, officials say.

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."

Jeff Warg January 12, 2012 at 06:06 AM
Hopefully Oak Creek will look at increasing capacity on Hwy 32 south down to the Racine County line as part of this plan. With a traffic count of 16,000 plus on 32 just south of Ryan, this stretch of road should already be four lanes.
vocal local 1 January 12, 2012 at 12:25 PM
Jeff, Remember HWY 32 is a state HWY. When the city got involved in Drexel Ave. the cost to OC results in debt borrowing of 10.5 mil as the tif isn't developed and is not producing any revenue. I'm not sure I want the city to negotiate another deal with Honadel, this time Racine probably also parties of the Lakefreeway expansion. Sure, all communities and levels of govt. realize the need but their budgets are strapped as they continue to finance governmental employees at salaries, with benefits above and beyond the mean incomes of the resident's they supposedly represent and grant huge tax breaks to business to develop and stay in WI thereby creating jobs but not contributing to the tax base. Lake front development is DEAD. Traffic on HWY 32 is going to get insane when the freeway reconstruction reaches OC diverting freeway traffic onto city streets. Request the Milw. Co. Supervisor Cuppertino/Henry Meyer, Lake Front Freeway Expansion Proposal. That proposal extends the Lake Free Way to Hwy 100 adjacent to Pennsylvania Ave. It then follows HWY 100 east, then north over the lake to the Hoane Bridge. Then the cost was prohibitive. Considering today's technological advances the proposal merits review. China is building 30 mile long freeways over water talk about a senic drive and public access...The Chinese claim their construction can sustain impact from ships running into them and typhoons. Now, lets hear it from the boys. Ald Gehl, candidate for Mi.Co Board,Comment please.
Resident of O.C. Paul January 12, 2012 at 02:07 PM
I'm with vocal local 1. I also want to add that if you look at other communities of comparable size to Milwaukee/Racine/Waukesha, they have freeway systems that are above and beyond ours...2 bypass rings with spokes connecting them so that traffic doesn't get too congested, and spreads the system out so that it services more of the community. Here in the Milwaukee/Waukesha/Racine area there are areas that have been pretty much forgotten, Southeast Milwaukee County Lakefront to 27th street/HWY 41, and from Layton Ave to the Milwaukee/Racine County Line) is a prime example of this...anything and everything is done to stifle freeway expansion, and business development, and the citizens cry "Not in my back yard" whenever anything is proposed but, also cry that the freeway system is antiquated, and doesn't service areas that could use it...Well...If not "in your back yard" then in who's backyard?...eventually something has to be done, and someone is going to have to give in and accept what is to be done for things to progress. As they say: You can't have your cake and eat it too.
BringBackOakCreek09 January 12, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Theres no need to expand highway 32 or highway 100. End of story. We can move forward with a bender plan without tareing apart District 4. Bender should be a getaway for those in Oak Creek not an attraction or gimmick. I love how this meeting went underway tuesday with little to no notification to the public. This is a big deal which equals public input. You should hold your alderman responsible for these backdoor practices.
Resident of O.C. Paul January 13, 2012 at 02:47 PM
OK...we already have someone taking the "Not in my backyard" stance, but I will agree that not having citizen input in a big project is a major violation to the citizens of Oak Creek...Time to vote all the alderpeople out of office and put in those that have not been corrupted by money in the form of buyouts by business or the state, and have not been corrupted by the current way the governmental system is run. There is the constitution of the U.S. that gets bent and violated by those in power to suit their whims, and this is just not right, anyone doing so should be removed from public office, this government is the peoples not theirs, they are just there to represent the people that put them into office.
Jeff Warg February 01, 2012 at 06:14 PM
I just saw an updated state traffic count map. On 32, just south on Ryan Road, the count was 19,400 in 2009. The fact is, there is MORE traffic on 32 near Ryan than there is on four lane Hwy 100 until you reach nearly the corner of 100 and 38. 32 is a heavily traveled route to Racine/Caledonia that needs to be upgraded.


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