Hoping to take advantage of its prime location along I-43 and Highway 83, the Village of Mukwonago has set its sights on more industrial development and an overall growth plan that welcomes business.
It seems like a simple enough strategy: invite business to the community; but Mukwonago officials say the tactic has not always been commonplace in the once-sleepy village.
The change began about six years ago, when 40-year police veteran Fred Winchowky was elected village president. Prior to the election, Winchowky attended dozens of municipal meetings over the 11 years he served as Mukwonago’s police chief. And he didn’t like what he saw.
“When developers came here, they were not greeted properly,” Winchowky said. “Different barriers were put up. We’ve eliminated much of the restrictions. Now we give (developers) ideas about how projects can work better.”
One of the first orders of business was negotiating a land purchase with the Dick Greenwald family for a 10-acre parcel southwest of Highway 83 and East Wolf Run that resulted in the relocation of Gearbox Express.
The Mukwonago-based manufacturer rebuilds gearboxes for wind turbines. It moved from a 43,000-square-foot building at 909 Perkins Drive to a new 75,000-square-foot industrial building on the Greenwald site in 2015. Mukwonago officials are hoping the entire 40-acre site becomes a full-fledged industrial park; however, the rest of the land is still owned by the Greenwald family.
In the meantime, the village is in the process of acquiring another piece of land, known as the Sugden property. The 115-acre parcel, less than a mile south of where Gearbox is located, could become the site of a light industrial business park that will be marketed to end users, said Steve Anderson, president and chief executive officer of Greenfield-based Anderson Commercial Group, which has been working for the village for about two years to market key sites.
A third property, a more than 250-acre farm owned by the Schuett family, connects the Greenwald and Sugden pieces. The village has made it clear that if the Schuett family is ever in the market to sell, the village is in the market to purchase, said John Weidl, village administrator.
“We’ve met with the family, but we also don’t want to change anyone’s plans,” Weidl said. “They can farm until the end of time; however, if at some point there is an opportunity, we have made our intent clear.”
At the end of November, the village adopted an updated comprehensive plan that will carry the municipality through 2035. It focuses on continuing its recent momentum, but also on revitalizing its downtown and vacant buildings while attracting more jobs to the community.
“We’ve broken down the barriers, we’ve put the policies into place and now we want to be partners with business,” Weidl said.
In addition to the planned industrial park, there are several other parcels on which the village is focused.
An unnamed development group is planning a retail development on 16 acres at the intersection of Highway 83 and the newly built Chapman Farms Boulevard, across from Kwik Trip on the north side of the village. The village owns 6 acres of land and the Chapman family owns the remaining 10 adjacent acres. An undisclosed medical office user has been identified for 3 acres, Weidl said. Anderson said there is room on the site for an additional 25,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space.
“It will definitely cap off the north end of town,” Anderson said. “There are a lot of good things going on over there already with the Culver’s and the Kwik Trip, but it is in need of some new restaurants and retail.”
Another major development planned is on a 4.5-acre site owned by the village along Phantom Lake, where the Lynch car dealership was formerly located.
Four developers have submitted plans for a mixed-use development at the site, with up to 90 apartments or condominiums and up to 10,000 square feet of commercial space proposed.
Weidl is hoping to have the village board review the proposals by the end of the month and choose a plan by March.
“We’re looking for this project to be the crown jewel of the village,” Weidl said. “This is our first entrance into the realm of really having an active hand in our own economic development and we’re very conscious of the shift in mentality here. We are looking forward to a development that the entire community can be proud of.”
Adjacent to the 115-acre Sugden parcel is another 100 acres of land, just north of Highway 83, that is under contract with a development group for big box retail, according to Anderson Commercial Group.
Anderson Commercial also has 105 acres adjacent to ProHealth Care’s Mukwonago clinic at 240 Maple Ave., currently under contract for development.
Anderson believes the village’s proactive attitude and geography will make it successful in its pursuit of more retail, housing and industrial.
“The market is definitely heating up as far as development users across the board and industrial is going to be the next hot area,” Anderson said. “Mukwonago is a great community and they are hitting it at the right time.”