Thursday, October 4, 2007

Don't Build The Interchange To Nowhere

So the developer of the million-square-foot upscale mall at Pabst Farms is pulling out; maybe asking them to pay 7% of the cost of the $25 million Diamond Interchange so shoppers could get to the mall was asking too much?

Rumors about this were circulating earlier this week.

If those developers don't think the area can sustain the mall, why should the state, county and City of Oconomowoc press ahead with the fast-tracked construction of the Interchange?

When it comes to planning in Western Waukesha County, this could actually be a good thing - - a moment to slow down and do some serious planning where the tail does not wag the dog.

Even Kurt Bauer, executive director emeritus of the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission, has criticized the Pabst Farm project as an inappropriate use of agricultural land.

A little-publicized public comment period on the interchange plan ends October 29th: Details about how to send in comments are here.

The $25 million price tag for the interchange exceeds the amount of Tax Incremental Financing from local governments that went into the Pabst Farms project to begin with.

A recent discussion about how TIF should be used is available, here.

If the mall component conceived as part of the 1,500-acre housing and retail/commercial Pabst Farms complex is in such flux, government should step back and see if the private market is really committed to a mall construction, and on which site, and in what configurations.

And for the municipalities throughout the region to more carefully study Pabst Farms, and other developments and plans in the region, to see how they impact the region's land use, water, employment, housing, transportation and fiscal resources.

For example, Pabst Farms includes a hospital, a shopping center and other commercial buildings, along with hundreds of high-end single-family homes.

The mall would have added hundreds of additional relatively low-paying jobs to the entire project's commercial components, yet Pabst Farms has no transit service and no market-rate, apartment or multi-family housing for people who might work at Pabst Farms properties.

Is this planning?

Or is it emblematic of the reasons why the Waukesha County Board turned back the regional planning commission's latest long-range plan for the county as insufficient?

Until these questions are addressed in depth - - don't use public funds to build an interchange to nowhere.


Anonymous said...

Since the largest developer of malls in the world doesn't think that a mall as Pabst Farms is viable, its time to look at alternatives that are more sustainable.

Instead of an auto-dependent mega-mall why not look at transit oriented development in Oconomowoc? How about WisDOT putting up dollars for train service to downtown Oconomowoc instead of wasting money on a highway interchange upgrade?

Appropriate retail downtown would help the economy of Oconomowoc - and keep the character of the area (to say nothing about preserving valuable farmland) far more than any mega-mall at the fringes of town.

Anonymous said...

The interchange project at Hwy P was never intended to faciltate traffic to the regional shopping mall. This interchange was only for the benefit of proposed big box stores on the east side of Pabst Farms and for (what I assume to be) fast food joints south of the freeway. I forgot to add like everything at pabst farms these will be world class fast food emporiums (sic?) ditto for the big box (think walmart with realistic window facades, oh boy!)

The DOT has estimated the project at $30 millon not the advertised $25 millon.

Even the residential units appear shaky, last week a home currently assesed at $405,00 for tax purposes sold for $335,000. this is only the most recent occurance of a troubling trend.

This house of cards called Pabst Farms, originaly sold/bought (remember Wispark with big jim klauser as the first developer) by the city of Oconomowoc looks like a redux of an earlier project, also using TIF money, called Scotsland and suffer a similar fate.