Border town

    Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:28 pm

    Fueled by its location near the state border along Highway 12 and its access to jobs in the nearby Chicago suburbs, the population of Genoa City has nearly doubled from about 1,200 to about 2,300 in the last 10 years.
    The village is adjacent to rapidly growing McHenry County, Ill. (population 270,000) and within a short drive of western Lake County, Ill. (population 650,000).
    The Tracy Group of Barrington, Ill., has built hundreds of starter homes in Genoa City, primarily attracting Illinois workers and their families who are seeking affordable housing.
    "We live smack dab in the middle of the growth corridor," Village President Barry Goad said. "Not just between Chicago and Milwaukee, but also between McHenry, Ill. and Lake Geneva."
    As the population has increased, Genoa City also has begun to attract some industrial development. Four buildings have gone up in the Corporate Ridge Business Park near Highway 12, developed by Prime Commercial Corp. of McHenry, Ill. Western Building Products and Quality Panels Inc. are two of the companies that have moved in. Hundreds of vacant acres remain in the industrial park, Goad said.
    "It’s just getting started," he said.
    The business park is in a tax incremental financing district. The village plans to complete the installation of water and sewer utilities for the industrial park by the end of the year, Goad said.
    Prime Commercial and village officials are asking Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle and other the state officials to build an interchange at Highway 12 and County Trunk B to improve access to the industrial park, Goad said.
    "That interchange was a dead issue a year ago, and now it’s back on the front burner," Goad said. "The governor is trying to steal jobs from Illinois. Now Prime has hired a lobbyist that is working with the DOT."
    Dewayne Johnson, deputy director for the DOT’s District 2 office in Waukesha, said the proposed Genoa City interchange is being considered, but it still must be studied and would not be built for several years.
    Highway 12 changes from a four-lane divided freeway between Elkhorn and Genoa City into a two-lane road at the Illinois border. Illinois officials are planning to build a bypass around Richmond, Ill., that would connect with the end of the Highway 12 freeway in Genoa City. The Richmond bypass would be adjacent to a massive residential and commercial development planned by Peter Bell, who is also the developer of Pabst Farms in Oconomowoc.
    Bell’s Richmond project has been held up by disputes from village board members there.
    About 10 miles northwest of Genoa City, Lake Geneva officials have been careful in reviewing development proposals. The charming resort town along Highway 12 has high standards for development, and several proposed residential developments have been rejected in recent years.
    Still, some commercial development is occurring near Highway 12 in Lake Geneva. Construction of a Wal-Mart Supercenter is nearing completion at the Highway 50 interchange and will replace an existing Wal-Mart store. A Home Depot was built on the other side of Highway 50 about three years ago.
    Timber Ridge Lodge, a 225-unit condominium hotel with a waterpark, was built next to Marcus Corp.’s Grand Geneva Resort & Spa northeast of the Highway 12 and Highway 50 interchange. Marcus manages the lodge.
    "There’s so much (development) pressure," said Dennis Jordan, Lake Geneva city administrator. "It could have been running rampant if (city officials) let it. It’s still going to come, but hopefully more in a managed pace."
    "There’s a lot more pressure on residential development than commercial (along Highway 12)," said Roger Wolff, a Walworth County real estate developer. "The big problem we have here is everybody who is living here can’t find decent jobs here. We’re a commuter county."
    Elkhorn also has seen primarily residential development near Highway 12 in recent years, zoning administrator Joseph McHugh said. The city’s population was 7,305 in 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and has risen to about 8,000, McHugh said.
    The population growth could eventually attract more commercial development. Bielinski Development of Waukesha, which has built hundreds of homes in Elkhorn, also is planning to build a 180,000 square-foot retail building just south of the Highway 67 and Highway 12 interchange, McHugh said.
    The DOT is building a two-lane, limited-access bypass, which could later be expanded to four lanes for Highway 12 around Whitewater in the northwest corner of Walworth County.
    The bypass construction will be completed in about a year and should increase traffic in the area, according to Gary Boden, Whitewater city manager Gary Boden. The road will encourage more Illinois residents to use Highway 12 getting to and from Wisconsin on weekends and vacation visits, he said.
    "It’s probably going to bring more traffic into the area using Highway 12 as an alternative to I-90 and I-94," Boden said. "We see lots of traffic come through here as kind of a backdoor to the northwest suburbs of Chicago. … We have a lot of fast food already. We’re a college town. There are only so many burgers and pizza that can be sold. We’re at a saturation level."
    Highway 12 real estate development
    Genoa City
    ¥ Residential development
    ¥ Corporate Ridge Business Park
    Lake Geneva
    ¥ Wal-Mart Supercenter
    ¥ Timber Ridge Lodge
    Elkhorn
    ¥ Residential development
    ¥ Proposed 180,000-square-foot retail building by Bielinski Development
    Whitewater
    ¥ Highway 12 bypass
    May 14, 2004, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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    Andrew is the editor of BizTimes Milwaukee. He joined BizTimes in 2003, serving as managing editor and real estate reporter for 11 years. A University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, he is a lifelong resident of the state. He lives in Muskego with his wife, Seng, their son, Zach, and their dog, Hokey. He is an avid sports fan and is a member of the Muskego Athletic Association board of directors.

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