Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:35 pm
A group of Sheboygan businesspeople believe their community has the right stuff. The Sheboygan Development Corp. wants to convert the Sheboygan Armory into Spaceport Sheboygan, a space and science center designed to attract visitors to downtown Sheboygan and teach them about space exploration.
It would cost about $15 million to create Spaceport Sheboygan, which would be operated by a nonprofit organization. The 42,000-square-foot armory at 516 Broughton Drive would be renovated and expanded to 55,000 square feet.
If built, the space and science center would include:
— An area to honor astronauts with Wisconsin ties, including James Lovell, mission commander of Apollo 13, and Laurel Clark, who died in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.
— Interactive exhibits, which could include a mission control center, a weightlessness experience with bungy cords, launch and space probe simulations, a lunar module driving simulation and robotics.
— An IMAX space theater and planetarium to watch live launches, space science videos and film from NASA archives.
— A lab for aerospace design, rocket construction and experiments similar to those done on the International Space Station.
— A NASA Educator Resource Center. The centers provide access to NASA education materials to educators throughout the country. NASA’s education materials for Wisconsin are currently kept at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, but they could be moved to Spaceport Sheboygan.
— A gift shop.
— A restaurant.
Members of the Sheboygan Development Corp. hope to begin construction of Spaceport Sheboygan in February of 2007 and open it in March of 2008.
"This is the most exciting thing I have been associated with," said Mike Muth, vice chairman of the Sheboygan Development Corp. and the owner of Sheboygan-based Muth Co. LLC.
The Sheboygan Development Corp. hopes the space and science center will attract visitors from throughout the Midwest. Sheboygan has become a more popular tourism destination in recent years with the addition of the Blue Harbor Resort and the Whistling Straits golf course.
But why would Sheboygan, located 1,300 miles north of Cape Canaveral, be an appropriate place for a space and science center?
Well, Sheboygan is home to the Rockets for Schools program, which would be based at Spaceport Sheboygan. Each year, teams of middle and high school students from throughout Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan learn the mathematic and physics principles that enable rockets to fly. Then they form teams and build their own rockets. The rockets are launched from Sheboygan’s South Pier, in the downtown area. The best teams launch their rockets about 5,000 to 6,000 feet high. About 2,000 people attended the Rockets for Schools event last year.
Also, Sheboygan is the only proposed commercial spaceport and launch site in the Midwest. Currently there are five U.S. federal spaceports, including Cape Canaveral and Edwards Air Force Base, three commercially-licensed spaceports and 13 proposed spaceports, including Sheboygan.
In 1996, to accommodate the demonstration rockets launched during Rockets for Schools, Sheboygan’s South Pier became the first sub-orbital launch site not located on the coasts.
A large restricted air space extends over Lake Michigan between Manitowoc and Port Washington. It was created decades ago when an Army base called Camp Haven occupied what is now Whistling Straits, just north of Sheboygan. Commercial aircraft cannot fly through that air space when it is active, including when demonstration rockets are launched up to 300,000 feet by licensed rocket enthusiasts during the Rockets for Schools competition.
The restricted airspace is one reason Sheboygan is a proposed site for a commercial spaceport. Someday, if a commercial spaceport is created in Sheboygan it could be used for more educational activities and maybe even space tourism.
"(But) that’s way out in the future," said James Testwuide, the treasurer for Rockets for Schools. He is also assisting the Spaceport Sheboygan project.
The armory is located in downtown Sheboygan near the lakefront, not far from the restricted airspace and the sub-orbital launch site. The armory building is owned by the City of Sheboygan, which spends about $150,000 each year to maintain the facility.
Under the Spaceport Sheboygan plan, the space and science center would lease the armory from the city, renovate it and build a 13,000-square-foot addition.
"The city has kept up the building," Muth said. "It’s in wonderful shape. We’re going to keep the armory intact the way it is. The building is really quite beautiful."
NASA wants to educate the public about space travel so taxpayers will continue to support funding the space program. In addition, the federal government wants to stimulate youth interest in science, because the new economy will be powered by technology-savy knowledge workers.
"You’ve got to find a way to get them engaged in math and science," Testwuide said.
The Sheboygan Development Corp. is depending on the federal government’s desire to promote space travel and science education, because it hopes to raise $10.5 million for the Spaceport Sheboygan project from federal, state and NASA-supported sources.
If the NASA education materials for Wisconsin are moved from UW-Green Bay to Sheboygan, Spaceport Sheboygan would be able to utilize the NASA logo, which would be a major marking boost for the facility.
Eau Claire-based Menard Inc. plans to establish six outlots, between one and 3.5 acres each, to attract additional development near its store at 10925 W. Speedway Drive. The Menard’s store opened last year at the former site of Hales Corners Speedway, which closed in 2003. Wauwatosa Savings Bank plans to open a 5,400-square-foot branch on one of the Menard’s outlots.
Baker Pool and Fitness plans to build four buildings with a total of 20,000 square feet of retail and office space in front of its existing building at 7131 S. 27th St.
Brookfield-based Zabest Commercial Group Inc. plans to build two buildings with a total of 10,200 square feet of retail space at 7322 W. Rawson Ave. The tenants will include Caribou Coffee. A home will be demolished to make way for the development.
Goodyear plans to build a 6,100-square-foot tire sales and service facility at 2930 W. Rawson Ave. A home will be demolished on the site to make way for the development.
Starbucks plans to open a store in a 1,800-square-foot retail space at 6525 S. 27th St.
The former Stout Bros. Public House at 777 N. Water St. in downtown Milwaukee has been sold. The bar opened in 2000 and closed in 2003. Former owner David Leszczynski, did not return a phone call from SBT. Marcie Kafura, spokeswoman for Siegel-Gallagher, which marketed the property, declined to say who purchased the site. Workers recently removed tables and other items left inside the space.
Grava Gallery recently moved from its previous location at 1224 E. Brady St. to the Marshall Building at 207 E. Buffalo St. in the Historic Third Ward. Pamela Flasch, owner of Miss Groove Excessories and Apparel, 1225 E. Brady St., plans to expand by opening a store called Miss Groove Intimate Apparel in the former Grava Gallery space across the street. The new store will feature lingerie, loungewear, swimwear, sleepware and body shapers. Flasch said she wanted to expand her lingerie offering, but didn’t have enough room at her current store. "I wanted a nice, intimate setting for lingerie," she said. "We couldn’t do that with everything else we do here (at Miss Groove Excessories and Apparel)." Miss Groove Intimate Apparel will open in mid- to late October, Flasch said.
Stein Garden & Gifts plans to build a 38,000-square-foot store with an open-air retail nursery at Unity Drive and Oconomowoc Parkway. The site is near the massive Pabst Farms residential, commercial and industrial development.
Eva Guzik plans to open a European-style restaurant and cafŽ called Retro in a 3,000-square-foot space in the Summit Center Marketplace at 1284 Summit Ave.
JMS Enterprises plans to open a UPS store in 1,379 square feet at the Summit Center Marketplace.
Edward Jones plans to open an office in a 1,000-square-foot space in the Prairie Creek Shopping Center.
Alexis Michaels plans to open a three-room bed and breakfast inn called Lake Manor at 317 N. Lake Road.
Brown Deer-based Bank Mutual Corp. plans to build a 3,364-square-foot branch at the site of the former Dragon Buffet restaurant at 1526 S. Main St. The former restaurant building will be demolished. This would be Bank Mutual’s first location in Washington County.
Cai Huang plans to open a Panda Hut Chinese restaurant in a 700-square-foot space in a multi-tenant retail building at 1417 Wauwatosa Ave.
Liberty Property Trust, a Malvern, Penn.-based real estate investment trust (REIT), is renovating an office building at 245 S. Executive Drive and making it more environmentally friendly. The three-story, 60,000-square-foot building was constructed in the late 1980s. Liberty Property Trust is updating the building and adding 10,000 square feet of office space to the building in place of a covered parking area. About 40,000 square feet of the building was vacated after a lease for CNA Insurance expired last year.
The large vacancy provided the perfect opportunity to do a major renovation project with minimal disruption to tenants, said Neal Driscoll, leasing representative for Liberty Property Trust’s Milwaukee portfolio. The building’s current tenants are Ford Motor Credit, Ashton Financial, Lindemeyer and Associates and LePoidevin Rickinger Group.
All of the materials used in the renovation project are environmentally friendly, Driscoll said. The project also includes parking spaces reserved for hybrid cars and several trees to increase shade. "Liberty, as a company, has made a national effort to develop environmentally friendly building with its new construction and renovation projects," Driscoll said.
Roaring Fork Restaurant Group plans to build a Qdoba Mexican Grill restaurant at the corner of Paradise and Silverbrook drives, just off of U.S. Highway 45. Additional retailers will be located nearby, possibly including Caribou Coffee. Roaring Fork has an exclusive development agreement with Qdoba Restaurant Corp. to open restaurants in Wisconsin and Northern Illinois.
The West Bend location will be the company’s 18th Qdoba location in the Milwaukee and Madison areas. Roaring Fork also owns Twisted Fork on Milwaukee’s east side. More locations for Qdoba are planned in Wisconsin. "We have a couple of additional projects in the works and are always looking for great sites in prime areas to open additional restaurants," said Roaring Fork president Michael Pranke.
Andrew Weiland is the managing editor of Small Business Times. Send news about commercial real estate to Andrew.firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling him at (414) 277-8181 ext. 120. News can also be sent to Andrew Weiland, Small Business Times, 1123 N. Water St., Milwaukee, WI 53202.