Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 11:00 am
Spotlight On: Sheboygan County
The 42-acre former C. Reiss Coal peninsula, which was once stockpiled with coal, has been dramatically transformed into the South Pier District of downtown Sheboygan. The peninsula lies between Lake Michigan and the Sheboygan River. The city spent $1.8 million to acquire the property and about $12 million to install infrastructure for its redevelopment.
The city also provided a $12.2 million subsidy for the development of the Blue Harbor Resort and Conference Center. The resort, developed by Madison-based Great Wolf Resorts Inc., anchors the peninsula.
The 300,000-square-foot, $54 million resort has 183 guest suites, 64 condominiums, a 40,000-square-foot indoor waterpark, a 29,000-square-foot conference center, a 3,000-square-foot spa and four full-service restaurants and bars.
The resort was built on 17 acres of the peninsula, leaving space for more development around it.
Several projects are in various stages of development on and around the peninsula, which will add more things to see and do for local residents and for visitors, including those staying at Blue Harbor.
Tom Fogle and Doug Hamm soon will open Triple Play Fun Zone, which is under construction next to Blue Harbor. The $3 million family entertainment center will have a miniature golf course, rock-climbing walls, a laser tag arena, batting cages, a full-size baseball infield and an indoor driving range.
"It’s a complementary use (to Blue Harbor), and it focuses on entertainment, which is one of the criteria we use in reviewing projects (for the South Pier district)," said Paulette Enders, Sheboygan’s director of planning and development.
Along the Sheboygan River, the city wants to see fishing shanty-style retail buildings, similar to the buildings on the other side of the river. Larger, mixed-use buildings, with retail on the first floor and residential units or office space above, are envisioned for the middle of the peninsula.
The layout will be similar to a traditional downtown, as it will be pedestrian friendly with buildings located right up to the sidewalks.
"We’re trying to promote retail at the ground level so we have good pedestrian connection and interest from business to business," Enders said.
Some other development is already cropping up on the peninsula.
Last year, Marion Kuether moved her business and renamed it Jomaji Salon and Spa to a new building on the peninsula along the river. The 3,600-square-foot fishing shanty style building was the first to join Blue Harbor on the peninsula.
"Business has been wonderful," Kuether said. "A fair amount (of customers come from the hotel), but not a lot. That’s just icing on the cake."
Most of Jomaji’s customers are local residents. Sometimes the spa and salon is so busy that guests at Blue Harbor are turned away.
Kuether said she wanted to move her business to the peninsula to take advantage of the unique location.
"I think (it was) the actual beauty and the view of the river and the lake," she said. "I think (the peninsula) has a lot of potential."
Dotti McGrane opened her business, a gift shop called Uniquely Yours, in a multi-tenant building along the river and on the peninsula last November.
"We’ve been getting a lot of good feedback from local people and from people staying at Blue Harbor," she said. "It’s just a wonderful area."
How Divine, a women’s clothing and accessories store, also occupies space in the building with Uniquely Yours. There is another 1,000 square feet of available retail space in the building.
Wood Dale, Ill.-based Harborside Development and Entertainment plans to build two 16,240-square-foot buildings and two 5,270-square-foot buildings on the peninsula. The first building is already under construction and will include restaurant and retail space on the ground floor and eight condominiums on the second floor.
Harborside Development LLC, owned by Sheboygan resident Chris Holbrook, plans to build three shanty-style retail buildings along the Sheboygan River. Holbrook is waiting to secure tenants before beginning construction.
To help retailers on both sides of the river, city officials hope to build a pedestrian bridge in the middle of the peninsula, connecting with the shops in the fishing shanty-style buildings on the other side of the river. City officials hope to obtain $5 million in federal funds to build the bridge, which would be able to swing open to allow boats to pass. In the last federal transportation bill, Sheboygan County received $25 million in federal funds for pedestrian improvements. The city is hoping to get $5 million of that money for the bridge. The city has no local money set aside for the bridge, Enders said.
"It will connect the downtown and riverfront to South Pier," she said. "What I’ve heard from the retailers in that area is that it will be very beneficial to them."
Madison-based JJR and Boston-based Rosales, Gottemoeller & Associates designed the bridge. It would be cable-supported with two 50-foot tall steel towers.
"That bridge could in and of itself become a destination," Enders said.
Some condominium development is also occurring in the area near the South Pier District.
A joint venture of Milwaukee-based Dixon Development LLC and Milwaukee-based Vetter-Denk Architects Inc. is planning to convert the 24,000-square-foot former C. Reiss Coal Co. office building at 1011 S. Eighth St. into 18 condominiums. In addition, they plan to build a 36-unit condominium building next door. The building is located at the entrance to the peninsula and was built in 1913 and an addition was added in 1961.
The property values for the South Pier District will probably improve once an unsightly green warehouse on the other side of the Sheboygan River is torn down. Milwaukee developer Paul Weise plans to purchase the property, demolish the warehouse and build 63 luxury condominiums on the property.
Sheboygan also could gain more tourist attractions near the South Pier District that would help fill up rooms in Blue Harbor.
A group of Sheboygan businesspeople want to convert the 42,000-square-foot Sheboygan Armory into a $15 million, 55,000-square-foot space and science museum.
Also, the same veterans group that tried unsuccessfully to bring the USS Des Moines battleship to Milwaukee is trying to bring the USS Edson destroyer to Sheboygan. The ship would be used as a museum. However, that effort may be a long shot, because Bay City, Mich. is also trying to obtain the USS Edson.
"All of this interest in Sheboygan helps in what we are trying to do in promoting the city," Enders said.
Key Sheboygan County Projects
- Triple Play Fun Zone, a $3 million family entertainment center is under construction in the South Pier District. It will have a miniature golf course, rock-climbing walls, a laser tag arena, batting cages, a full-size baseball infield and an indoor driving range.
- Various other retail and residential developers occurring on and around the South Pier District.
- A group of Sheboygan businesspeople want to convert the 42,000-square-foot Sheboygan Armory into a $15 million, 55,000-square-foot space and science museum. In addition, state lawmakers are considering a plan to create a Wisconsin Aerospace Authority that would be able to attract federal funds and could someday build a facility for launching rockets into outer space.
- The same veterans group that tried unsuccessfully to bring the USS Des Moines battleship to Milwaukee is trying to bring the USS Edson destroyer to Sheboygan. The ship would be used as a museum. Bay City, Mich. is also trying to obtain the USS Edson.
- Wal-Mart is building a supercenter store at South Taylor Drive and Germaine Avenue on the south side of the city of Shebogyan and plans to build another supercenter store in the Town of Sheboygan, just north of the city. Wal-Mart is still trying to receive final approval for the Town of Sheboygan store. Wal-Mart plans to close its current Sheboygan discount store in the Taylor Heights retail center.