Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:28 pm
Real estate developers who invested in properties in Oak Creek over the past decade are now seeing those investments pay off in a big way.
Momentum continues to build in the dwindling vacant parcels of Oak Creek, often regarded as the "last frontier" of new development in Milwaukee County.
In recent years, the southern suburb has seen the openings of a new Kohl’s Department Store, a new Menard’s store, a new St. Francis Bank branch and new industrial developments such as the Creekside Corporate Park and the new Cummins Npower plant along Ryan Road.
This year, development is picking up steam in the center of the city, with the opening of a Pickerman’s Original Soup CafZ
Oak Creek’s commercial building boom will continue with several additional new projects later this year.
When Detroit-based DeMattia Group purchased a 17-acre parcel at Howell and Forest Hill avenues from nearby Delphi Automotive Systems Corp. three years ago, the planned Howell Oaks Business Center development was slowed by an industrial recession.
Michael DeMichele, director of development for the Milwaukee regional office of the DeMattia Group, is now seeing that investment pay off.
DeMattia Group recently sold the western-most three acres to Gladon Co., a swimming pool supplies manufacturer that plans to break ground on a 30,000-square foot facility this month.
DeMichele also recently closed on the sale of the 1.56 acres next to the Gladon Co. site to Ebenezer Childcare Centers, which plans to open a 15,000 square-foot childcare facility Aug. 20.
In addition, DeMattia Group plans to break ground this summer on a 37,000 square-foot neighborhood retail center with a 9,600-square-foot outlot on the eastern 5.2 acres of the site. The remaining 5.4 acres on the property has not yet been sold.
"Our two land sales are a great sign," DeMichele said. "This whole corridor has been waiting to explode and it is just starting to with the help of good leadership from the city of Oak Creek.
"With the economy improving and the residential growth over the past five years, there is now a pent up demand for retail services in Oak Creek," DeMichele said. "It helps to have childcare, a dry cleaners, a coffee shop and so on that people can walk to. The best situation is to have a place to live, work and play."
Oak Creek’s population has grown to more than 30,000 from 19,000 just 10 years ago. That residential growth has spawned several subdivisions, condominiums and apartment complexes.
Doug Seymour, assistant director of planning for the City of Oak Creek, said the city center district is the result of groundwork laid by the city many years ago. According to Seymour, the original plan in the 1980s for Oak Creek identified the city center as the place for higher residential density to support future retail.
"The elected officials of Oak Creek have always worked toward the goal of a balance within the city between commercial, residential and industrial components," Seymour said. "In order to do that, the officials had to develop the residential side to have the commercial side later. This did not happen by chance."
The Centennial Center being constructed south of Puetz Road on Howell Avenue has become a hot spot for commercial prospects, according to Kathy Schmadl, leasing contact for residential retail at Wimmer Brothers Realty.
Wimmer Brothers has had the luxury of turning away some prospective businesses because of the growing interest in the Centennial Center, Schmadl said. The company is in the process of signing leases with the 12 businesses that plan to move in, including a Quiznos Sub shop, a dry cleaner, a nail salon and a travel agency.
Schmadl said Centennial Center will release the names of remaining businesses when the leases are final at the end of April.
"Oak Creek desperately needed more retail, and I think what Wimmer is bringing to the community is incredible," Schmadl said. "I think the residents and the people who work in the area will be extremely happy."
Beverly Anderson, executive director for Ebenezer Child Care Centers, said the nonprofit organization has been looking to build a facility in Oak Creek for five years.
"We called childcare centers around Oak Creek and found that many are not full-service, are not year-round, do not take children over a certain age, and all are full with waiting lists," Anderson said. "We heard from everyone that quality childcare is needed in the neighborhood."
Ebenezer Child Care Centers focus on "child care from the heart," Anderson said. Any child from 4 weeks to 12 years of age can attend, and the building is designed to look and feel like a home.
Anderson said Inland Companies, Milwaukee, helped Ebenezer find the land they were looking for and contracted with the Zimmerman Design Group, Milwaukee to design the new center.
The $1.5 million project will begin with a groundbreaking ceremony April 23.
Anderson said she the facility will accommodate 150 children and 25 staff members. It will be the largest of the five Ebenezer centers.
"This has been our first opportunity to build from the ground-up and we are thrilled this is coming to be," Anderson said. "We are excited to join the Oak Creek community, where we can get involved, give back and provide resources to the residents."
Seymour said this is not the end for Oak Creek commercial development, and as the city continues to grow, so will its businesses.
"We are constantly reevaluating where the city is and where it needs to be," Seymour said. "The current administration is focusing on the future and how it would like to see the city evolve as residential and commercial areas continue to advance."
Oak Creek momentum
¥ Menard’s store on South 27th Street.
* Kohl’s Department store on South Howell Avenue.
* St. Francis Bank branch on Howell and Puetz Road.
* New Cummins Npower plant on Ryan Road.
* Creekside Corporate Park south of Ryan Road.
* A new police department headquarters building on Ryan Road.
¥ A new Pickerman’s Original Soup CafZ
¥ A new Target store on Howell Avenue.
¥ A new North Shore Bank branch at Howell and Puetz Road.
¥ The Howell Oaks Business Center at west of Howell at Forest Hill Avenue. The development will include a new Gladon Co. swimming pool supplies manufacturing plant, a new Ebenezer Chidcare Center and a 37,000-square-foot neighborhood retail center.
¥ The Centennial Center on Howell Avenue, which will include a new Quiznos Sub shop, a dry cleaner, a nail salon and a travel agency.
April 16, 2004, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI