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Development making a comeback in the Falls

May 13, 2014

Menomonee Falls — If growth and development are any indication, the local impact of the recession seems to be drawing to a close. None if it has happened overnight, but 2013 was an exceptionally good year for the village of Menomonee Falls, according to the annual development report.

Past, present and future projects were highlighted as part of the report, which Director of Community Development Matt Carran presented at the May 5 meeting of the village board.

The village is the 21st largest community in the state in terms of population, but has the ninth-highest assessed value, which is up almost 2 percent since 2012. It also has a 5 percent growth rate in manufacturing business, ranking third in the state behind Milwaukee and Green Bay.

"We are growing the fastest in the top 10, and we are one of the few that keep growing," Carran said. "The value of Menomonee Falls keeps going up, and I think that's a good sign moving forward."

Honor and reminder

All of these efforts have not gone unnoticed. The village was recently recognized as the 28th best place to live in the country by CNN's Money Magazine, which Village Manager Mark Fitzgerald said was both an honor and a reminder.

"Sometimes when you live in a community you take for granted all of the positives that exist within it," he said. "I think it's an effective reminder that on the national level we're on the right track."

Carran pointed to a balance of corporate expansion, residential construction and sustained growth in manufacturing as reasons for success in 2013, as well as hope for a promising 2014.

"Our core, what we try to do here, is to promote the corporate expansion and retain (business)," said Carran. "We are essentially trying to create and continue a mix of a community including retail, service, industrial, residential multifamily and single-family housing. As we move forward, we want to keep that going and keep that balance.

Residential building up

It was the best year since 2005 in terms of the number of residential and nonresidential permits issued, with almost $60 million of planned new construction.

"For several years now, residential growth was stalled out," Fitzgerald said. "We are seeing a resurgence of residential interest, which is so important since we need to keep growing in a balanced way. It's an excellent sign for the village."

Proposed residential developments are spread throughout the community, Carran said, including Silver Spring Estates on the southwest side and Aero Park near Pilgrim and Good Hope roads.

"We went five years without a single subdivision," he said. "We had one (each of) the last two years. We're now bringing forth five subdivisions this year. There is a lot of residential demand out there."

The village also has bid farewell to several of its well-known eyesores, replacing them with more modern developments.

The complete overhaul of the old Stolper Steel site along Highway 41/45 near Pilgrim Road increased the assessed value of that 17-acre formerly blighted property from $1800 to $14 million through the recent completion of the Froedtert Health and Wisconsin Athletic Club complex.

"(That project) is a huge improvement to the visibility and Menomonee Falls' image along Highway 41/45," Carran said, calling it the first piece of the puzzle that is redevelopment along the Main Street corridor.

Known best for blighted buildings like the old Marcus theater, Carran said the revitalization of Pilgrim Village has brought new life to the area where Main Street and Pilgrim Road intersect. In addition, the recent redesign of the former Salvation Army into Planet Fitness has sparked new interest from developers in Colonial Plaza.

"Seeing the way the redevelopment work impacts the overall image of the community definitely demonstrates how important it is for us to stay before blight," Fitzgerald said. "It creates its own downward spiral."

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