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Muskego considers strategy to protect its 'gateway'

Redevelopment district would direct growth along border

June 1, 2012

Muskego - Motorists leaving Interstate 43 at Racine Avenue get their first impression of Muskego, at what officials call "the gateway" to the city.

In a chess-like move, the city is trying to protect that gateway at the north end of Racine Avenue, even as neighboring New Berlin focuses development attention on the Mill Valley Sand and Gravel site just across the cities' College Avenue border.

If development takes off, on either side of the border, local officials want to be ready to make sure it leaves a good impression of the city, said Jeff Muenkel, community development director.

Redevelopment district strategy

To that end, planners propose creating a redevelopment district mainly on the east side of Racine Avenue from the city limits at College Avenue south past Tans Drive almost to Lembezeder Drive. A tract of mainly vacant land and a few homes on the west side would also be included.

Nearly the entire quarter-mile stretch is zoned for business, with some residential and institutional parts such as near the Mill Valley Elementary School grounds. All of it is envisioned as commercial in the city's 2020 Comprehensive Plan.

Just like the buildings inside the city's three current redevelopment districts, the properties would be declared blighted, but Muenkel emphasized that is just a formality and simply identifies them as candidates for redevelopment.

The designation wouldn't affect property owners except to make them eligible for grants and loans that the city could extend to them, Muenkel added.

Establishing a redevelopment district also would strengthen Muskego's hand in working with New Berlin on its sand and gravel pit redevelopment plans, he said.

Reacting to the proposal

A public hearing on whether to establish a redevelopment district and approve its plan will be held at 6 p.m. June 19 before the Muskego Plan Commission at the City Hall, S8200 Racine Ave.

In his initial reaction to the redevelopment district proposal, Muskego-Norway School District Superintendent Joe Schroeder said that, some time ago, the 2020 Plan Committee had explored including the 5.7 acres that are a small part of the school grounds in the development area.

"But there's nothing concrete or specific," he said. "We've had no communication on sale or use of district property."

The school's land has development potential because of its access to Racine Avenue, the planning documents note. The land is mostly unused by the school district except for parking on a few recreation nights during the summer, they note.

The plan also recommends working with school officials on the future of the property. It suggests the city purchasing it and then asking for development proposals or just marketing the land and making financial aid available for development.

But the key property in terms of determining the viability of rest of the redevelopment district is 15 acres of open land on east side of Racine Avenue south of College.

"This is a large vacant parcel that is the first Muskego parcel when entering the community from the north," the documents note.

The tract contains a stream that is part of the headwaters to Little Muskego Lake, but has ample room for development, they say.

The owner has done considerable grading to prepare it for future development.

OTHER PLAN RECOMMENDATIONS

As part of the planning for the New Berlin's Mill Valley Sand and Gravel site development, the proposed redevelopment plan makes a number of recommendations, including:

Possibly installing lighting along Racine Avenue with fixtures matching the Mill Valley site development

Possible full boulevard urban cross section roadway installed up to Tans Drive

More street trees and boulevard landscaping

Possible trail installation along Racine Avenue

Even if the redevelopment district doesn't happen, the plan offers beautification ideas:

Trees on boulevard behind new monument sign

Street trees on sides of right-of-way up to Tans Drive

Work with the Mill Valley Sand and Gravel to get their property cleaned up (with better fencing along the Racine Avenue right of way, increased landscaping, or cleanup of the brush)

Work with Park Board on trail implementation along Racine Avenue

Have beautification days each year (using city staff and perhaps volunteers to clean-up area, prune trees, replace mulch, add plantings)

Work with the state to clean up the median areas of the roundabouts in the Interstate 43 interchange

Work with New Berlin in beautifying this gateway to Muskego during their future roadway planning of a redeveloped Mill Valley site

NEXT STEP

WHAT: Public hearing before the Muskego Community Development Authority on whether to establish the proposed Mill Valley Redevelopment District and the plan that goes with it

WHEN: 6 p.m. June 19

WHERE: Muskego City Hall, S8200 Racine Ave.

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