Down by the River

Posted on Sep 1, 2010 :: Development
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Photo courtesy of Eagle Flats LLC

The site of the former Riverside Paper Mill along the Fox River in Appleton will soon find new life as the city’s newest neighborhood. Eagle Flats, which will stretch southward from Lawe Street, will be home to two residential buildings and commercial buildings. The residential buildings will include a 70-unit affordable senior housing project and a 54-unit housing complex geared toward working families and entry-level professionals.

Eagle Flats’ senior living building has the potential to be occupied immediately with residents from Washington Place, a senior apartment building operated by the Appleton Housing Authority and facing costly repairs.

“We see Eagle Flats as a real catalyst project that will lead to further riverfront development,” says Randy Stadtmueller of Stadtmueller & Associates, a partner in the project with the Horizon Development Group. “Once we start on the residential buildings later this year, we will begin marketing and planning for two commercial buildings on the site. This is all part of a transition in Appleton taking industrial property and converting it to non-industrial uses.”

Eagle Flats got a shot in the arm earlier this summer when the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority awarded more than $16 million in tax credits to the project. Now Stadtmueller and his partners are working to secure additional financing to get construction started.

Stadtmueller predicts it will take five years to complete the entire Eagle Flats project. Demolition of the former paper mill could begin later this year, depending on financing – including the expansion of TIF 8 – and zoning approvals. Construction on the east end of the project could then begin in 2011.
Eagle Flats is just one development in the works along the Fox River in Appleton. PHP Project Development has announced plans to build an $8 million, eight-unit condominium complex on the site of the former Foremost Farms USA plant on the river’s west side. Across the river and up a bit is RiverHeath, a $55 million housing and commercial project.

“All three of these projects are moving forward and it’s really allowing us to have a mixed-used riverfront with multiple kinds of housing, retail, restaurants and office space,” says Karen Harkness, Appleton’s community development director. “Our community started because of the river. Then over time, we turned our back on the river so now that we’re focusing again on riverfront development, it’s like we’ve come full circle.”

Harkness says the city is working on another key piece of riverfront development: taking control of unused railroad trestles and completing a trail system that would allow bikers and pedestrians to travel along the river from Lutz Park and the Appleton Yacht Club north to Tellulah Park. “It’s an exciting part of the puzzle and it’s one we keep working on. It will really add something to the area and will increase accessibility to the riverfront for everyone,” she says.
Stadtmueller says trails will be included in the Eagle Flats design.

“The river is a compelling place to be,” he says while sitting at Atlas Mill, a coffee shop in another property along the Fox River that he worked on. “People love the water.”
Investing in the community

Two large Fox Cities employers – Plexus Corp. and U.S. Venture – recently moved into new corporate headquarters.

U.S. Venture’s new $10 million corporate headquarters just off County CE in Kimberly provides a new look for the marketer of petroleum products and whole distributor of auto parts, tires and HVAC equipment, which recently changed its name from U.S. Oil. The three-story, 59,000-square-foot building is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified and incorporates environmentally friendly elements, including recycled and reclaimed materials. About 200 employees work out of the site.

“The new headquarters brings more associates together than any other time in our history. Being more closely connected enhances our team efficiency and effectiveness, so we can move faster and smarter, together,” says U.S. Venture CEO John Schmidt.

Plexus (which was featured in the May issue of Insight) moved into its corporate headquarters in June. Located in downtown Neenah, the 104,000-square-foot building sits on the site of the former Glatfelter Mill, which closed in 2006. The building houses 350 corporate employees, who came from various buildings in the Fox Cities. The former headquarters just off U.S. 41 is becoming a hub for engineering, design and education.

Neenah business leaders are excited about having another large employer – Alta Resources and Bemis Co.’s corporate headquarters are already downtown – so close to the area’s restaurants, retailers and other businesses. And just as Plexus opened in June, construction crews completed the Wisconsin Avenue reconstruction.

The city plans to turn the land in front of the Plexus headquarters into retail space. In addition, Legacy Park, which honors the papermaking industry, surrounds the base of the former Glatfelter/Bergstrom Paper smokestack. The redevelopment of the former mill site has been a big priority for the City of Neenah.