For more than a century, the Fox River served as an industrial hub throughout the Fox Cities. As businesses closed, moved or consolidated, the buildings that once housed manufacturers sat empty waiting for a second life. Little by little, many of these industrial sites are finding new purposes, filling community, commercial and residential needs.
The historic Eagle Mill in Kaukauna is the latest site finding a new use. Built in 1872 as a flour mill and now owned by Thilmany Inc., the company no longer needs the building and some of the surrounding warehouses. They connected with developer Randy Stadtmueller – who redeveloped several former industrial sites in the Fox Cities, including the former Atlas Mill in Appleton.
Stadtmueller and his team at Stadtmueller & Associates took a long look at the 5½-acre property along Lawe Street north of the Veteran’s Bridge. “We talked a lot with community leaders and it became clear the Kaukauna Library needed a new home and that the old mill might be a perfect fit,” he says.
Crews will begin work later this year to convert the main floor of the 88,000-square-foot Eagle Mill into the Kaukauna Library’s new home, including a large community room that can be used by the city, library or community organizations.
With the library officially signed on as a tenant, Stadtmueller is seeking other commercial tenants. “There has been interest and it’s a great location,” he says, adding that Thilmany is demolishing nearby warehouses that will allow plenty of parking room. Thilmany’s new owners have pledged to continue the project. “The Eagle Mill is a nice addition to the already great retail areas that Kaukauna has along Wisconsin Avenue and Lawe Street across the river.”
The renovated Eagle Mill is just one piece in Stadtmueller’s redevelopment project along that side of the river. Called the Grand KaKalin development, he sees other potential uses for the surrounding property including senior housing, commercial buildings and a hotel.
“We are studying a lot of options right now and conducting market analysis for the different projects,” he says.
This month, a senior housing complex – Bridgeway Cove – is the project in the forefront. Stadtmueller is working with Horizon Development Group to build Bridgeway Cove. While the project at the corner of Lawe and Wisconsin did not receive tax credits from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Association, he says it will still move ahead.
“Our market research indicates that there is a demand for senior housing, as well as market rate apartments for all ages,” says Stadtmueller. “The WHEDA decision does not reflect on the market analysis, it just means more people sought tax credits in the affordable housing category at a time when there are actually less tax credits available. We are still considering some type of senior housing development, but we need to restructure the financing model to make it happen.”
Stadtmueller is involved in a few other projects along the Fox River, including working with the City of Kimberly on a redevelopment plan for the former NewPage plant and the continued development of Eagle Flats in Appleton.
“We hope to reveal the Kimberly project plans this summer,” he says.
Kimberly officials are looking at several options for the 100-acre parcel, which they hope is a mix of commercial and residential use. In addition, there is interest from another developer to turn a vacant 300,000-square-foot warehouse space on the property into a wood pellet manufacturing plant.
Appleton’s city center gets new look
Construction continues as the City of Appleton redevelops Houdini Plaza. The plaza, which is used for numerous community events, as well as a casual gathering space, will feature enhanced green spaces, specialty benches and a raised terrace that can be used as a stage.
“This is a very exciting development for our downtown,” says Karen Harkness, Appleton’s director of community and economic development. “We hope to finish up by the end of summer. The project is really about creating a welcoming space not only for visitors, but also for attracting and retaining businesses.”
While the Houdini Plaza project moves ahead, another planned development for downtown Appleton is still in a holding pattern. The Fox Cities Exhibition Center remains on hold as a new buyer is sought for the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel, which will manage the center. In addition, other steps need to be taken such as the city finalizing the purchase of land from Outagamie County.
“We have every confidence this project will get completed,” Harkness says. “It’s a very important economic development project for our area.”
Along the riverfront, two projects are moving ahead: Tanesay Development plans to build 35 apartments and 2,500 square feet of retail space this year on its RiverHeath project along the Fox River on Banta Court while Stadtmueller is seeking to build 10 townhomes across Lawe Street from his Eagle Flats development.
“There continues to be a lot of excitement in taking these former industrial sites and finding new uses for them,” Harkness says.
A CLOSER LOOK
FVTC plans move ahead
The main campus of Fox Valley Technical College in Grand Chute is a hub of construction activity as work continues on $66.5 million worth of expansion projects approved in the April 2012 referendum. Construction started last fall on the Health Simulation and Training Center, which provides enhanced training to health care students through patient and medical simulations. That project is expected to be finished this fall.
In March, work started on FVTC’s Student Success Center, which is designed to provide increased support service space to help students become ready for the workforce. That project is slated to be finished by the fall of 2014. Other projects of note on the Grand Chute campus include expanding the J.J. Keller Transportation Center and the Agriculture Center.
FVTC is also building a Public Safety Training Center at the Outagamie County Regional Airport in Greenville. That project, which provides vital hands-on tactical training for students and public safety professionals, is expected to be complete in the spring of 2015.
A CLOSER LOOK
Other projects of note
The Fox Cities is home to several large projects under construction. Here’s a list of some of them:
Plexus Corp. plans to open a new $50 million high-tech manufacturing facility in Neenah this fall. The 473,000-square-foot building is the largest single project ever built in the city. The new plant, which is located in the South Park Industrial Center, will replace two leased facilities on Enterprise Drive and a center point to assemble high-tech electronic components for clients. The project will retain 1,000 local jobs and has the potential to add 350 jobs to the area, company leaders say.
Galloway Co., the nation’s largest maker of sweetened condensed milk, is spending $5 million to expand its Neenah dairy plant. The company is looking to build a 13,500-square-foot addition on its west side to provide additional space for manufacturing, packaging, warehousing and offices. A second building estimated to be about 4,500 square feet will be constructed just south of the main facility at 601 S. Commercial St. and will be used to handle Galloway’s sugar-unloading operation. Both projects should be complete by the end of the year.
Ministry Health Care announced plans last fall for the next phase of renovations at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Appleton. The hospital is going through a multi-year plan to completely renovate and update its campus. The next phase, which is estimated to cost $108 million, includes constructing a five-story inpatient bed tower, updating the cancer center, renovating the adolescent behavioral health inpatient unit, creating new entrances to the women and families center and surgical procedures area, and demolishing the west part of the hospital that was built in 1924. The project is expected to be complete in early 2015.
BEHIND THE NAME
Developer Randy Stadtmueller is calling the redevelopment of the Eagle Mill and surrounding property in Kaukauna the Grand KaKalin (pronounced Kah-Kay-lin) project. The name dates back long before the city now known as Kaukauna existed. Early descriptions from settlers of the area included a nearby 50-foot drop in the Fox River called KaKalin Falls.