What’s Next for the Oak Creek Lakefront

While Drexel Town Square and development around the Drexel freeway interchange have gotten most of the attention recently, I’ve long thought Oak Creek’s plans for Carrollville will have the biggest impact on their neighbor to the north and east.


Those plans are starting to come together and include a wide mix of uses, from single-family housing to light industrial to a convention center. A new lakefront park is already open, located along a newly extended Fifth Avenue connecting to Highway 100.

From a recent Business Journal story

The overall vision breaks the land surrounding Lake Vista Park into different districts, each with a different redevelopment strategy.

There’s 91 acres northeast of American and Fifth avenues where the city is encouraging offices or light industrial buildings for water technology businesses or other research and development. There also could be medium-density housing with apartments and single-family homes.

An affiliate of Wispark LLC, Milwaukee, owns 46 acres in that area that it eventually plans to sell to another developer, said president Jerry Franke. Wispark shareholders invested in that land as part of the same agreement that led to its participation in the Drexel Town Square and OakView Business Park developments, he said.

“Obviously, that’s the most difficult one and the one we’re working with the city on for a strategy to have someone else buy it and redevelop it,” Franke said of the lakefront land.

Planning for future uses continues, but Franke envisioned housing and single-family homes would likely be part of the mix. …

The city of Oak Creek owns about 31 acres between that Wispark property and the shoreline. City officials plan to eventually sell that land to a private developer, Vickers said.

“We have not tried to sell it,” Vickers said, adding that the new plan is “the coming out party for the fact that this is ready to go.”

South of that, a local investor group owns 8 acres with about 500 feet of frontage on Lake Michigan. It also is supportive of the city’s vision for the area, and has participated in planning discussions, said managing partner Ron San Felippo, a Milwaukee real estate investor. San Felippo said industrial buildings on the land were torn down last year. He said the ownership group hasn’t decided whether to sell the land, or develop it themselves. …

Another large planning district in the city proposal stretches between Fifth Avenue and the future Lake Vista Park, where future development would be anchored by a convention center and hotel, Vickers said. That 61-acre area would also have complementary commercial or stores to support a conference center, and housing. … 

The city TIF plan would support those areas north and west of Lake Vista Park with, for example, a $4.5 million sewer extension project. That is among $10.2 million in infrastructure projects planned in the TIF district.

Smaller scale retail could be built on about 22 acres southwest of East Ryan Road and Fifth Avenue. Also, 72 acres adjacent to Bender Park is slated for single-family houses and some apartments.

The overall TIF plan includes up to $36.4 million in city spending, and envisions it would help create more than $172.7 million in property value in new, private developments. Property taxes generated by that new land value would pay off the city’s spending by 2038.

The city estimates the area will need another $6 million in site preparation and cleanup work, including demolition of former industrial buildings. Also, $6.5 million is earmarked for developer incentives.

I welcome what’s coming in Carollville, just as I embrace what’s happening on Drexel.

These types of developments are transformative for the entire South Shore, and the work along Fifth Avenue is happening a little more than a mile from our borders. South Milwaukee will be a gateway for this project, and I’m excited about it.

That said, we are, and will always be, much more than a place people drive through on their way to and from Oak Creek. We have our own unique attributes, and that selling story is only getting better.

Our neighbor will continue to grow in its own way. We’ll hold true to who we are. And we’ll both win because of it.

1 Comment

Filed under South Milwaukee

One response to “What’s Next for the Oak Creek Lakefront

  1. Joe Felcht

    Development cuts two ways. Part of what attracted me to South Milwaukee when I moved here 11 years ago is the small-town ambiance of the city. The relative lack of traffic congestion, and the proximity of more developed areas for shopping and dining, like 27th St. and South Howell.

    I’m all for development that encourages and maintains the unique characteristics of South Milwaukee, and brings jobs, revenue, and enjoyment to the residents and members of surrounding communities. I hope we do not see overdevelopment in a way that degrades the friendly vibe of this gem of the South Shore.

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