Kenosha County development

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Pleasant Prairie remains attractive; Kenosha casino could have big impact

Kenosha County is expecting primarily residential development this year, although significant activities are under way in the village of Pleasant Prairie and the city of Kenosha, according to Kenosha County principal planner John Roth.
John Bechler of the Kenosha Area Business Alliance is bullish on the area’s future.
"There is still a substantial amount of new development occurring on Highway 31 – also known as Green Bay Road – and on Highway 50 toward I-94," Bechler said. "We’re seeing a mix of office and light industrial, including new development and renovation of old properties."
According to John Milisauskas of the Kenosha County Job Center, new employers along Highway 50 include Golden Coral, White Castle and Old Country Buffet restaurants.
In other commercial activity, Bechler stated that the banking industry is showing more interest in the Kenosha area due, in part, to the growth of the area as part of a corridor between Milwaukee and Chicago.
"We’re continuing to see more and more banks locating in Kenosha," he said. "We now have a locally-owned bank breaking ground on Highway 158 and Green Bay Road. If you look back 10 years ago, there were five or six banks located in Kenosha. There are now about 15 banks. The Bank of Elmwood is putting up its second branch. South Port Bank is putting up a branch in Paddock Lake. As the market gets closer and closer between Chicago and Milwaukee, people locate here to service both places."
The impact that Lakeview Corporate Park in the village of Pleasant Prairie has on Kenosha County is hard to underestimate, Bechler said.
"In the Wispark Lakeview Corporate Park, in the last 12 months they’ve had about 600,000 square feet of new development. They currently have 740 acres sold of the original 1,400 acres in the park. There are a total of 65 companies in the park employing about 6,500 people. This accounts for an equalized value just over $400 million. Wispark did recently sell a few of the buildings they own in the development, but they are going to keep the land they own in the park."
Bechler said one significant addition to the Wispark development would be the Herman Goelitz Co., manufacturer of Jelly Belly jellybeans. The confectioner is currently constructing a 380,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution facility, including a retail outlet, in the park. Bechler added that the company plans to eventually relocate its manufacturing facility from Chicago. The building should be completed by mid-2001.
According to Pleasant Prairie assessor Ed Judt, "the newest announcement is the addition of Nitto Denko, which just purchased land in the Wispark development. They will build four production buildings, a distribution warehouse, corporate headquarters and a research-and-development facility. We expect they’ll break ground on the first building in spring or summer."
Nitto Denko manufactures high-tech adhesives used in computer hard drives for vibration damping, noise reduction, dust exclusion and other utilities.
According to Judt, the village has also recently annexed land west of I-94 – much of which Wispark already owns. He added that Wispark officials recently inked a deal for development of the property with CenterPoint Venture.
CenterPoint Venture is a partnership between CenterPoint Properties of Oakbrook, Ill., LaSalle Investment Management of Chicago, and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System. The group has also invested in the Grandview Business Park in the Town of Yorkville, Racine County.
But the village of Pleasant Prairie is seeing development activity beyond what is taking place in the Wispark development.
"In Pleasant Prairie, VK Development out of Brookfield recently did a large 350-acre planned development with commercial, housing and a hospital. The development is located at highways H and 50. VK Development has also recently purchased a site for upscale housing in Pleasant Prairie," Bechler said.
"In the end, the hospital will be 300 beds – part of United Health Care, a partnership between Kenosha Hospital & Medical Center and Wheaton-Franciscan Skemp," Judt said. "They currently own St. Joseph’s in Elmbrook, Ill. They had owned the St. Catherine’s Hospital in Kenosha but had closed it. This will be the new St. Catherine’s."
The city of Kenosha also has a lot going on in its own business park development.
"The Business Park of Kenosha is smaller – about 144 acres," Bechler said. "We have 19 businesses in that park, with a total square footage of about 900,000 and equalized value of about $30 million. Currently, the one building under construction is Beere Precision Instrument. This will be their corporate office, and will be 54,000 square feet."
The Business Park of Kenosha is geared toward smaller development, according to Bechler.
"We want to make sure that businesses located in the Kenosha area have place to expand to," he said. "We’re seeing a cross-section of manufacturing, distribution and machining businesses – not heavy industry – but rather light manufacturing and the like coming in. Covenants in the Kenosha Business Park are not restrictive on the level of the Lakeview Corporate Park, making it more accessible to smaller firms. We just require good standards for municipal parks. The Business Park of Kenosha allows a mix of building techniques – just so long as there is total masonry facing the street. The rest can be a metal building. We currently have about 70 acres remaining."
A major development story in the county has been the potential for a major casino to locate within the city of Kenosha. The development, as proposed by the Menomonee Indian Tribe, would be located between the business park of Kenosha and I-94 at the former Dairyland Greyhound Park.
According to John Van Benthuysen of the Kenosha County Job Center, the Paradise Key casino development would bring 2,000-3,000 full- and part-time jobs to Kenosha, phased in over a period of time.
Despite popular perception that casinos bring largely low-paid positions, Van Benthuysen feels the casino would offer a high number of professional positions.
"When I think of a casino, the first thing I think of is that guy with the green visor at a gaming table," Van Benthuysen said. "But behind the scenes, you have a lot of professional positions, including accounting, security and training. In addition to the casino, you also have golf course and hotel development. And there are information technology positions, as you would expect with a highly-automated industry."
The appointment of Gov. Tommy Thompson to the Secretary of Health and Human Services position by President George W. Bush may put a crimp in the plan for a Kenosha casino as Lt. Gov. Scott McCallum has stated he flatly opposes additional gambling venues in the state. The casino development is also being opposed by other Indian nations in Wisconsin and Illinois.

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