Land swap is key to Oak Creek Delphi plans

Interim Oak Creek Mayor Al Foeckler recently cast the deciding vote, breaking a 3-3 Common Council tie, to move forward with plans to relocate City Hall and the library to the former Delphi site.

However, the plan still requires approval by the Oak Creek-Franklin School Board of a three-way land swap deal.

Under the terms of the proposed land swap deal: the Oak Creek City Hall and Library would move from their current location northeast of Howell Avenue and Puetz Road (just west of Oak Creek High School) to seven acres on the Delphi site, located southwest of Howell Avenue and Drexel Avenue; Wispark LLC, the developer of the Delphi site, would get 50 acres at Oakwood Road and Howell, adjacent to 165 acres that Wispark already owns, from the school district; and the current 12-acre City Hall and library site would be given to the school district for future expansion of the high school.

“The school district needs to consider that at this time,” said Doug Seymour, Oak Creek director of community development. “This is the process. The city wanted to take a position for them to consider.”

School officials could not be reached for comment.

If the School Board rejects the land swap deal, “then we will have to go in a different direction,” Seymour said.

The City Hall and library would provide an anchor for efforts to redevelop the former Delphi site into a mixed-use, town center development.

“It anchors that site as a catalyst for other things, and it would send a strong message to the development community about the city’s commitment to making that project work,” Seymour said.

“We really think that will help to set apart the Delphi site from your typical suburban retail destination,” said Jerry Franke, Wispark president.

Delphi closed its Oak Creek plant in 2008. Wispark bought the site last year for $8 million, including $2 million provided by the city. Wispark is the real estate development arm of Wisconsin Energy Corp. As part of Wisconsin Energy’s Oak Creek power plant project, Wispark agreed to invest $20 million in real estate development in Oak Creek.

The city’s vision for the Delphi site includes retail space, residential development, the civic component and a small amount of office space. The city does not want industrial development on the site. However, a hotel and a movie theater are ideas that have been floated without specific proposals, Seymour said.

“The actual mix (of uses) has yet to be determined,” he said.

The idea is to create a downtown, similar to the Bayshore Town Center development in Glendale, in a community that has never had one.

The land swap deal would increase Wispark’s land holdings at Howell Avenue and Oakwood Road to 215 acres, creating a larger potential business park development and would put the land current owned by the school district back on the tax rolls. Wispark needs to acquire the Oakwood site from the school district to create adequate access to the planned business park, Franke said. In addition, a school probably would not be the most appropriate neighbor for a business park, he said.

“We’re trying to look at this in terms of a much larger puzzle for the entire community,” Seymour said.

In addition to the planned relocation of the City Hall and library, planned road improvements could also attract development to the former Delphi site. The state Department of Transportation plans to build an interchange at Interstate 94 and Drexel Avenue. Also, the city recently began a project to expand Drexel from two to four lanes between South 13th and South 27th streets. That project is expected to be complete by the end of the year.

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