Walworth County action hugs the corridors
The development trend along the I-43 corridor is reaching Walworth County burgs including East Troy, Elkhorn and Genoa City. But leasable space and land are not being snapped up here as quickly as areas further to the northeast.
"In the new industrial park in East Troy, we have three buildings built and one under construction, MLG Commercial’s Barry Chavin said. "One was basically built with spec space available that has not filled yet."
Chavin said Walworth County still holds a lot of promise.
"It is a matter of the glass being half empty or half full," Bruce said. "There is available land and, to some extent, available buildings. Those are the opportunities for companies to relocate with affordable land prices and affordable buildings. As you get closer in, there are higher rents and land prices."
As residential patterns move further southwest and people commute into the Milwaukee and Waukesha areas from the hinterlands, commercial and industrial development will follow, according to Chavin.
"Many of the employees are moving further out from the metro areas for the more reasonably priced housing," Chavin said. "In some cases, the companies will follow them out. More and more, I-43 is becoming attractive for people to live and relocate their businesses. We are seeing interest in companies from New Berlin interested in the same corridor, but with more affordable buildings."
In Whitewater, two major projects in the city’s east side business park will put more than four acres under roof in a short period of time, according to city manager Gary Boden.
An initial phase of the relocation from Helenville of Universal Electric to an 11-acre site in the Whitewater park will encompass 86,917 square feet and employ 180 to 200 people.
The city still has about 175 turnkey acres available, according to Boden.
Boden said Whitewater’s downtown is also ripe for commercial activity. The city has spent several million dollars to tear down blighted properties in its downtown, replacing them with a park overlooking a millpond. A factory on Whitewater Creek has also been demolished to make way for a 42-unit housing project.
"This is generating interest in our commercial real estate," Boden said. "It will also add about $3 to $4 million to our tax base."
Elkhorn expands focus
In Elkhorn, the focus is shifting from industrial park development to pushing development wherever commercial- and industrial-zoned land is for sale.
"We started out with probably 157 acres for our business park," Elkhorn Development Corp. (EDC) director George Martin said. "We are down to about 25 or 26 acres of commercial and the same amount of industrial. We are TIFed out down there. Our focus is not on selling individual parcels in the industrial park. On a board level we have decided to work with anyone developing land in the city as a whole."
Recently annexed land to the north — brought into the city from the Town of Sugar Creek three years ago — will represent a significant opportunity for growth, Martin said. An existing business in the area — transportation contractors Mann Brothers — would help anchor future development.
"We are getting more involved in land to the north we have annexed in TIF #3," Martin said. "This is north of Highway 12 up to the Evergreen Golf Course. Part of the annexation had to be industrial property. That is where Mann Brothers, on the west side of 67, comes into play. We have been in contact with them and are starting to develop a program where we can act as a secondary salesman. What we are trying to do is work with people who already own the land."
The first parcel on the auction block consists of about 80 acres, according to Martin, and is zoned M2 industrial.
"On the south end of the annexation across Highway 67, we have a farm we annexed into the city under TIF #2 — a little better than 140 acres," Martin said. "The Immega Farm is also zoned M2. They have a very active broker — Harding Realty out of Woodstock, Ill. It looks like it is getting closer to fruition now. A national distributor of frozen foods is seriously interested."
Another parcel of land — the 100-plus acre Boegger Farm across Highway H from the city’s existing industrial park — is also up for sale, as are 47 acres owned by Buick/Chrysler dealer Jerry Horn off of Highway 67 to the west.
Lake Geneva gains tourist attractions
In Lake Geneva, major tourism and retail projects leave the tourism-related community better able to attract and serve visitors as well as residents.
George Hennerly of the Geneva Lake Development Corp. pointed to the completion of Timber Ridge — a Marcus Corp. facility on the east side of Highway 12 and Highway 50 — as a valuable new amenity.
The resort hotel, which is located next to the main entrance of Grand Geneva Resort, adds 300 hotel rooms and an indoor water park to the city’s recreation mix.
"That will be a nice boost and will appeal to a sector we have not typically been able to market to," Hennerly said.
The city also recently gained a 120,000-saquare-foot Home Depot near the same intersection. Across Highway 50, plans are under way to tear down an existing 14-year-old Walmart and replace it with a Super Walmart.
The condo hotel concept is making inroads in the Lake Geneva market, according to Hennerly. Delevan Lake Resort, a Keefe Development condo hotel, is selling off 47 units. The hotel is located west of Delavan on South Lake Shore Drive, a half mile south of Highway 50. A second condo hotel, Mill Creek, was completed at the end of the year. The hotel — with 35 units — is located one block south of Highway 50 and Center St. in Lake Geneva.
"It allows one to operate a significant property without the debt service you normally would have because you typically sell it off," Hennerly said. "From the traveling perspective, you don’t know it really isn’t what it appears to be."
Owners of each hotel room are not allowed to occupy the units for more than a small number of days per year, Hennerly said.
Corporate Ridge shoots south of the border
Further to the south, activity in Genoa City’s Corporate Ridge business park is churning along. Broker Scott Dixon of Prime Commercial, McHenry, Ill., said that things slowed down substantially in recent years, but 20 of the park’s 200 acres are sold. The development came online in 2000.
"At Corporate Ridge, we just completed a 25,000-square-foot manufacturing facility on three acres for Quality Panels of Spring Grove, Ill.," Dixon said. "Right now, we are working with a Bentonville company to move up there; we can’t say who they are yet. There is also a 150,000-square-foot start coming in spring, but I can’t divulge who that is."
The park’s proximity to the Illinois border is a key marketing device, according to Dixon.
"We are focusing on the Illinois company that is used to paying exorbitant prices for business park land and also needs inexpensive electrical power," Dixon said. "We also have a Johnson Wax subsidiary in our park. But we are right on the state line so there is easy access to the Chicago industrial market."
Februry 1, 2002 Small Business Times, Milwaukee