Officials study city's development history

Brief retrospective meant to help new commission members

Feb. 26, 2013

Franklin - As the city looks back on nearly the last decade of economic development, about 55 projects stand out as the most significant.

In a recent presentation to the Plan Commission, Planning Manager Joel Dietl highlighted the city's largest economic development projects since 2004, including projects with a net value of at least $250,000.

Mayor Tom Taylor said he requested Dietl put together the presentation in order to better orient new members of the Plan Commission and Common Council to the history of major developments in the city and Franklin's overall economic development strategy.

Successes noted

One of the most significant recent developments was the multi-million dollar, second-phase expansion of Baptista's Bakery, 4625 W. Oakwood Park, which was approved in 2011 and is now under construction. Upon completion, the project will add about 400 new jobs to the city, Taylor said.

While that project involved financial assistance from the city, Taylor noted that only a few of the city's major developments have occurred within existing tax-incremental financing districts, with the majority receiving little to no city incentives.

A more recent project that represented many years of effort to fill a vacant space was the development of Dunham Sports and Planet Fitness, at 6525 and 6543 S. 27th St.

"This is an example of a Jewel-Osco store being successfully redeveloped, but it took a number of years," Dietl said. "It was vacant or under-utilized for at least five years before these two uses came in."

Some don't make it

Many of the projects featured in the presentation required significant review and approvals from the city in order to advance. Despite receiving all of the necessary approvals, some of the projects did not come to fruition, Dietl noted, be it for financial reasons or otherwise.

Those projects include Meijer Grocery and Department Store, approved in 2012 for construction at Loomis and St. Martins roads; Fields Bar, Grill and Banquet Hall, approved in 2011 for construction at 11027 S. 27th St.; Southbrook Church, approved in 2010 for construction at 9733 S. 76th St.; Azana Salon and Spa, approved in 2008 for construction at 5610 W. Rawson Ave.; and the YMCA, approved in 2005 for construction at 7333 S. 27th St.

The Fields Bar development fell through when its business partners decided to part ways, while Southbrook Church chose to purchase an existing building instead of constructing a new one, Dietl said. The Meijer and YMCA developments were abandoned for financial reasons, Dietl said, and the Azana Salon and Spa likely for the same reason, although the city never received confirmation on that.

A handful of other projects also have yet to be completed, but applications for those have not been formally withdrawn or discontinued, Dietl said.

"You think about all of the turmoil that these projects create and the stirring of the pot, having one neighbor against another neighbor, and then at the end of the day, they just change their minds," Taylor said.

Taylor suggested the city look into whether it could establish contracts with developers or businesses to have a stronger guarantee that planned projects are carried out, which Dietl said he is in the process of examining. It is likely that in cases involving incentives, the city could tie some additional strings to those incentives, Dietl said.

Projects not addressed in the presentation include most residential projects, Dietl said, as well as the 40 to 50 "minor" projects the city reviews on an annual basis.

Learning from the past

With the streamlining of the city's development review process, particularly for the smaller projects, Dietl said, planning staff has been able to cut time spent on plan review by about one-third.

Overall, Taylor praised the city's economic development policies and related ordinances, as well as the quality of development the city has attracted.

"There's 19 municipalities in Milwaukee County. I don't really know that there's a whole lot of communities that can hold a candle to us, as far as quality," Taylor said.

Commissioner John Michlig said he has experienced "site plan hindsight" related to some of the developments, including Sendik's, 5100 W. Rawson Ave., and how it was incorporated with the existing neighborhood.

"I think we've learned from some of that stuff and hopefully we can carry that forward and not make decisions based on present economic realities … but rather, plan in the long-term instead of reacting in the short-term," Michlig said.

Taylor noted the importance of striking a balance in attracting certain types of development while also considering the city's financial operations and budgetary implications.

The same economic development information also will be presented to the Common Council, and likely posted to the city's website.


Franklin development highlights over the past several years:

2013 -Kwik Trip, 10750 W. Speedway Drive, to be constructed later this year

2012 -The Rock Sports Complex, 7900 W. Crystal Ridge Drive, Phase I now under construction

2011 -Baptista's Bakery, 4625 W. Oakwood Park, facility expansion now under construction

2010 -St. Paul's Lutheran Church, 6881 S. 51st St., construction completed in 2011

2009 -Sacred Heart at Monastery Lake, 7350 S. Lovers Lane Road, Phase I completed in 2011, Phase II in 2012 and Phase III now under construction

2008 -Walmart Super Center Expansion, 6701 S. 27th St., expansion/remodel completed in 2010

2007 -Harley Davidson Ironwood Data Center, 4777 W. Ironwood Drive, construction completed in 2008; building sold in 2012

2006 -Wheaton Franciscan Hospital, 10101 S. 27th St., construction completed in 2008

2005 -Transpak Corp., 2 World Packaging Circle, construction completed in 2006

2004 -Indian Community School, 10405 W. St. Martins Road, construction completed in 2007


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