Former Gehl site in West Bend eyed for hotel, office development

City will sell part of 8-acre property to development team

The former Gehl Co. site in West Bend. (Credit: Google)

Last updated on June 24th, 2019 at 02:10 pm

A Germantown-based developer is planning to construct a hotel and office building on a portion of the former Gehl Co. site in downtown West Bend.

On Monday, members of the West Bend Common Council approved an agreement with RafRad LLC and Iowa-based Kinseth Hospitality Cos. related to the proposed development. The city will eventually sell 3.3 acres that make up the northern portion of the 8-acre city-owned property, located at the southwest corner of Water Street and South Forest Avenue.

Developer Paul Stangl of RafRad previously developed the Hampton Inn & Suites West Bend, located near the southeast corner of South 18th Avenue and West Paradise Drive.

“We feel that this project will not only fill a need in the downtown area but will further draw visitors and the community to the area,” Stangl said in a statement.

Stangl could not immediately be reached for further comment.

Jay Shambeau, West Bend city administrator, said the city has 60 days to enter into a purchase agreement with the developer. “We will know more about the development timeline after the execution of the purchase agreement,” he said.

West Bend officials consider the former Gehl site a high priority for redevelopment. The city worked with the Washington County Site Redevelopment Committee to study the possibility of a hotel specifically for that site.

The former industrial land served as the site of Gehl Co.’s headquarters until 2008. The site has been eyed by other developers in the past, though none of those projects came to fruition.

In 2017, the city selected Blair Williams of WiRed Properties and Sean Phelan of Phelan Development to build 96 market-rate apartments in three buildings, with 24,000 square feet of commercial space in two of those buildings. Then in 2018, Van Horn Real Estate proposed a mixed-use development of its own at the site.

Shambeau said the first proposal did not move forward in part because the developers chose to instead focus on other projects elsewhere. For its part, Van Horn did not meet an April deadline to submit a detailed site plan related to its proposal; the developer had only previously submitted conceptual plans with the site.

The Gehl site is an attractive spot for development, Shambeau said, due to its proximity to downtown businesses and restaurants, the Eisenbahn State Trail, the Museum of Wisconsin Art and the city’s Riverwalk along the Milwaukee River. The construction of the eastern portion of the Riverwalk is nearing completion.

Also nearby are a number of other recent and ongoing development projects, such as the $3.5 million revitalization of the historic West Bend Theatre at 125 N. Main St. That project formally broke ground last week.

“I would say all the excitement and rejuvenation of downtown West Bend has led to developers’ interest in this property,” Shambeau said.

The council also on Monday considered the potential sale of the 4.5-acre southern portion of the Gehl site. Shambeau said council members did not take action on that parcel.

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Alex Zank
Alex Zank covers commercial and residential real estate for BizTimes. Alex previously worked for Farm Equipment magazine and also covered statewide construction news at The Daily Reporter. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he studied journalism, political science and economics. Having grown up in rural western Wisconsin, Alex loves all things outdoors, including camping, hiking, four-wheeling and hunting.