A decision on how the Sugar Creek land should be developed likely remains several months away.
On Thursday, Aug. 22, the city had a student-run design company present three plans for public viewing, questions and feedback at an open house.
The land that’s being planned is a combination of the Verona Area School District property south of West Verona Avenue that the city will acquire after the district relocates two schools in fall 2020, and a handful of privately owned properties that could be combined. Some of those property owners have expressed interest in selling their land.
More than 20 people wrote up Post-It notes, chatted with designers from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Community Development Solutions design center and declared their feelings about the different options to members of the Community Development Authority, which met after the two-hour open house to unpack what members had heard and seen. The CDA didn’t appear to come to any conclusions, but the designers and members noted that the prospect of an outdoor pool got a lot of people talking.
Each of the three concepts CDS presented has a band shell, pickleball courts, a park play area and green space. All have apartments and/or townhomes.
The discussion and the designs are purely conceptual at this point. Even if the community and the CDA come to unanimous agreement on what should be done with the land, it would be up to a developer to execute such a plan and the city would need to come up with a source of funding for the most popular items – a pool, a park and a community center.
The meeting was officially the end of the CDS contract with the city, but the group plans to compile and summarize the feedback from both the public and the commission and incorporate it into another set of options for the CDA to discuss.
In addition to some excitement over a pool – which could cost several million dollars – and other potential amenities, feedback ranged from concern over three-story buildings and residential density to questions about whether the city would be able to fill commercial buildings.
One of the concepts includes a community center, about 36,000 square feet of commercial space and a park but no pool. Another includes a pool and community center but fewer residential units and 31,000 square feet of retail. The third has a larger park, 66,000 square feet of retail but no community center and no pool.
Among the privately owned property in the concept area is two houses, a printing shop, a salon and the former Michael’s and Treads restaurant property. It also includes the 101-year-old New Century School, which must be left intact by the terms of the city’s agreement with the school district, and the 61-year-old Sugar Creek Elementary School, which is likely to be torn down.
The CDA is an arm of city government that takes the lead on some housing and urban renewal projects. The last major project it undertook was construction of the Sugar Creek Apartments in the 1990s, coincidentally adjacent to the VASD site. It was also involved in 2015-16 in the planning the future of the Matts house, which ended up being restored privately.