Friday, January 25, 2008

Pabst Farms Mall, Modified, Is Still Big-Box Heaven On The Road to Sprawlville

Chapter XI on The Road To Sprawlville finds a new pond planned for Lake Country:

Developers of the proposed upscale shopping mall at Pabst Farms, anxious to preserve $25 million in financing pledges to build the full-bore "Diamond" interchange at I-94 and State Highway 67,, have made some changes to the mall's design, and the City of Oconomowoc will probably mute its criticisms and keep the project moving forward.

The City of Oconomowoc already has sunk $24 million in tax increment financing into the Pabst Farms development for roads and other infrastructure, and only has to put up $400,000 to get the interchange into the ground (a sweet deal, as the state is the big donor at $21.9 million), so the city is unlikely to demand any more concessions from the mall's designers.

The next stages of home building on the 1,500-acre site have been delayed a year because of the housing market downturn; killing off or side-tracking the mall might devalue the subdivisions and retail business now in the development, so my guess is that the mall will gets its city approvals.

And the interchange planning, now a major activity at the state transportation department's District Two offices in Waukesha, will continue to stay on the fast track.

Regional cooperation, west of 124th St., is when the County, a municipality, the transportation department, the regional planning commission (SEWRPC is facilitating the addition of the interchange to the area's highway spending priorities) and private businesses come together to spend money and lay concrete.

(No rail or bus connection into and out of Pabst Farms, even to nearby by downtown Waukesha, fyi.)

The modifications to the sit plan to accommodate the mall include a pond at the interchange (in what used to be genuinely known as Lake Country, this gesture to the past, as an ornament, is pathetically paradoxical).

Other aesthetic tweaks slightly reorient the location of the big box stores, though they will still show their backs to motorists - - a throwback away from modern city planning principles, and a victory for the developers who said that's the way it has to be.

Waukesha County residents are on the hook for a $1.75 million contribution to the interchange (as is the mall developer), and even though the region is at the heart of the anti-taxing rebellion, my guess is that most taxpayers won't object to a spiffy new shortcut off the interstate to a new brace of big box stores and the kind of stores you see at Mayfair.

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