Oak Creek will spend another $400,000 to fund environmental work at the city's lakefront in their ongoing quest to open up the area to the public.
City officials said they have come a long way in the last four years to redevelop the lakefront, but there's still work to be done. The money will finish the environmental due diligence needed before the sites can be redeveloped.
"We haven't gotten into the end zone yet," City Attorney Larry Haskin said.
Haskin acknowledged the high price tag, but said, "I think the way you have to look at this is that this is an investment into these properties."
Specifically, the money will go toward legal fees to complete negotiations with two property owners on the northern part of the 250-acre land east of Fifth Avenue. That will result in a building demolished, property remediated and land transferred to the city.
Oak Creek will also complete remediation on two properties on the southern end of the area and take preliminary steps toward redevelopment.
The Oak Creek Common Council unanimously approved the additional funding in its meeting Tuesday. The council in 2011 approved $787,125 for similar environmental clean up activities; the city is now at the point where that budget has been met.
"The bottom line, once we made the decision to open the lakefront up, there’s costs associated with doing that," Mayor Steve Scaffidi said.
Added Haskin, "It's hard to put a value on public land sitting right on top of Lake Michigan."
Environmental issues caused by some 100 years of manufacturing on the land have been the biggest roadblock to the city's efforts to finally open up the area.
Work was set to begin this month on the southern end of the land, where crews will remove select areas of trees and concrete slabs, excavate along part of the bluff and treat soils.
In late 2014, the city plans to construct a road around what are now properties owned by DuPont and EPEC. When that's completed, it will mark the first time the public has had access to the Oak Creek lakefront. A park is expected to be constructed around that time.
Under the city's redevelopment plan, some of the land will remain for public use, while other parts will be marketed to developers.
That's a big departure from when talks started in 2008, Haskin said. At that time, DuPont was prepared to cap the site and put a fence around it.
"It would have been cut off from use by our citizens and it would not have been available for redevelopment," he said.
Read more about Oak Creek lakefront redevelopment progress with Patch's archived coverage.