Video: Plans unveiled for Drexel Town Square

A team of developers, led by Wispark LLC, this week unveiled detailed architectural renderings for the Drexel Town Square project in Oak Creek. Hundreds of residents attended an open house to see the plans.

The project is an attempt to create a downtown for the city. As proposed, the project will include a 193,000-square-foot Meijer store, several restaurants, a new city hall and library, 500 to 600 apartments, a mixed-use Main Street and a two-acre town square park.

Below you can watch a fly through video of the project created by Milwaukee-based Rinka Chung Architecture.

Then, click here to see a slideshow of architectural renderings for the Drexel Town Square project created by Rinka Chung and by Sheboygan-based Bray Architects (which is designing the new City Hall and library).

A recent BizTimes Milwaukee cover story provided a detailed report on the Drexel Town Square project.

In many ways the mixed use Main Street and the upscale apartment portions of the project are reminiscent of the Historic Third Ward in Milwaukee. Buildings are located along the street edge with first floor retail and restaurant space and apartments above. Some of the streets are made with brick pavers. An entrance sign over Main Street is reminiscent of the Third Ward entrance sign and the sign at the former Pabst brewery. Angled parking in the middle of Main Street is similar to Broadway in the Third Ward.

“I’m overwhelmed,” said Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi. “(The developers’) vision is grander than mine. We are changing the course of what we do as a city.”

The developers focused their presentations at the public open house on the Main Street, apartments, the civic buildings and the town square in the project. They clearly wanted to de-emphasize the Meijer store part of the project. Some residents in Oak Creek are disappointed about the Meijer store and some residents would prefer another retailer. But the developers say the store is critical to attract shoppers and other retailers and restaurants to the project. Read more about concerns about the Meijer store at Oak Creek Patch, a media partner of BizTimes Milwaukee.

Scaffidi said the renderings unveiled this week should show residents that there is much more to the Drexel Town Square project than just the Meijer store.

“We should have done this a couple of months ago,” he said. “I think once this is seen people are going to be excited about it. It’s exciting for our city.”

Developer Rick Barrett, who will build most of the apartments at Drexel Town Square, said the quality and rents of the apartments in the project will “lift the marketplace” for apartments in Oak Creek. But he expressed confidence that apartment residents will be attracted to the amenities of the project including walking and biking trails, a small lake, the town square and the restaurants and retailers.

“I believe if you build it they will come,” he said. “I think the project with all of the other things going on around it, will rent up fast.”

Milwaukee-based Siegel-Gallgher will manage and handle leasing for Barrett’s apartments. The apartments have a contemporary design with a classic layout along the street edge. But the apartments also have some suburban style attributes including plenty of green space, walking and bike paths, a swimming pool, fountain and a small lake.

“There’s a reason that some people will want to live here instead of downtown (Milwaukee),” said Rinka Chung owner Matt Rinka. The apartments on the west side of Drexel Town Square will have the feeling of a resort, he said.

“There are a lot of aptartment buildings in Oak Creek,” Rinka said. “We’re trying to serve a clientele looking for something different.”

The Main Street area is expected to feature several local retailers and food and beverage outlets. In addition to being a developer, Barrett is also the owner of the Brick 3 restaurant, a New York style pizzeria with locations on Old World Third Street and a recently opened location on Milwaukee Street, both in downtown Milwaukee. Barrett said he will also open a Brick 3 location in the Main Street area of Drexel Town Square.

The Drexel Town Square developers say the civic portions of the project: the city hall, library and town square park, will help make the project the heart of he community. Residents got a chance to see the architectural plans for those elements as well.

The city hall and library building will have public entrances on three sides, including two entrances with wide staircases. The building will have courtyards on the north and south sides of the building.
The preliminary plans for the town square include a tiered amphitheater lawn leading to a stage area. An ice rink could be placed over the stage during the winter, Rinka said. Preliminary plans also show a splash pad and a sculpture garden.

The developers for the project say the combination of an urban style Main Street and apartments, civic structures and a traditional suburban big box store to create a downtown from scratch is extremely unique. Barrett said the group could not find another comparable project in the nation. If successful the project could be a new model for mixed-use suburban development.

“I think this will be studied from afar,” Barrett said.

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