Following the Plan

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

Hobart's Centennial Centre, courtesy of Schreiber/Anderson Associates

Elaine Willman, director of community development and tribal affairs for the Village of Hobart, can’t believe it wasn’t even one year ago the community celebrated the completion of its master plan for the creation of a new multi-use development, Centennial Centre at Hobart.

Since then, one business – Centerline Machining – has opened a new manufacturing facility while another – EMT International – is constructing a new headquarters. Then there’s the agreement the village made with a developer to build 256 multi-family residential units and 145 single family units on 80 acres of village land.

“It’s just amazing what has happened in less than one year,” says Willman, who is concentrating now on bringing a commercial development to the front parcel of Centennial Centre to better serve the area’s new residents and employees. “There’s so much going on out there. It’s constantly changing. We are making a real impact on the community.”

Centennial Centre at Hobart got its start in 2008 when the village purchased 350 acres of farmland and designated a 603-acre area as a planned development district zone. The name Centennial Centre was given to honor the community’s founders and settlers, who incorporated the village in 1908, as well as to put into place a plan for the community’s future economic sustainability, Willman says.

In August 2008, the village’s trustees approved several contracts that put pre-planning tasks in motion, including master planning for a planned development district and ordinance, an archeological survey, wetlands delineation, tax increment district planning and a market analysis.
The project is on the fast track because the village faces a balloon payment on the land purchase in 2012. That means revenue in the form of tax dollars from the new residences and businesses needs to come in as soon as possible to ensure the village can meet its financial obligations. Hobart also is counting on state dollars to help with the updates along Highway 29, which serves as a gateway to the development.

“We decided to move ahead and do all of the planning work at once and we also have in place a plan that says we’ll only sell to developers who are ready to dig in the ground,” Willman says. “We wanted this project to get moving.”

That’s something it’s definitely doing. As part of the village’s master plan, Hobart’s first-ever downtown will be created and be home to substantial consumer resources including retail, restaurants, professional office spaces, light manufacturing, educational and medical facilities and plenty of green space.

Along the project’s western edge, there’s room for larger retailers.
“We’re moving from east to west with this,” Willman says. “What we really want to concentrate on this summer is getting services out there for the people who live and work there. By the time EMT opens this fall, we want there to be a place for people to grab a cup of coffee, get something to eat and those types of things.”

Willman says the project is successful because it’s satisfying the area’s unmet needs as well as being efficient throughout the approval process with developers. “We also believed in this and making it happen. I really think that’s a big part of it,” she says. “We ignored the naysayers who said it couldn’t be done and created a solid master plan where developers can really imagine their businesses and homes in this community.”

Hobart has just under 6,000 residents and is growing at a faster rate than any other Brown County municipality as the village forms its own identity and is no longer just seen as a bedroom community for Green Bay, Willman says. “We are showing this is its own community and not just a place where people come to sleep at night,” she says.

Downtown revival
Developer John Vetter is planning to break ground this summer on the long-awaited $12.2 million WaterMark project on the Fox River in Green Bay.

The project, which includes the redevelopment of the former Younkers department store, will feature office, retail and condominium space in addition to the new Green Bay Children’s Museum, a parking garage and Hagemeister Park restaurant. The groundbreaking for the new museum was set for the end of June, which means the project is really taking shape, says Jeff Mirkes, executive director of Downtown Green Bay Inc.

“This entire project will be a huge asset to our downtown,” he says. “It’s just the next step in showing that we’re really moving forward and creating a vibrant city center.”

Vetter, who is with Vetter Denk Architects of Milwaukee, is receiving a $3.5 million loan for the project from the City of Green Bay, a $4.5 million loan from Calumet County Bank in Brillion and the Impact Seven and a $2.5 million loan from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority.

WaterMark will be connected to Green Bay’s CityDeck, a quarter-mile boardwalk connecting the Walnut Street Bridge and the Ray Nitschke Bridge on Main Street.

Economic driver
The third busiest airport in Wisconsin after Milwaukee and Madison, Green Bay’s Austin Straubel International has new options for travelers flying in and out of the area. This spring, Frontier Airlines – the first low-cost carrier to serve the Green Bay market – began flying direct to Denver, while Continental Airlines began providing service to Cleveland.

Self-funded with an $11.1 million operating budget, Austin Straubel does not use county tax dollars, which means the airport is constantly looking at ways to expand service and its business opportunities, says Airport Director Tom Miller.

“By moving people and freight to and through the community, we’re contributing to the area’s economic development,” he says. “The state did a study a few years back that the airport contributes more than $120 million into the region’s economy and directly or indirectly provides job opportunities for more than 2,000 people in the area.”

The recession left its mark on the airport as passenger travel dipped 14.9 percent in 2009 to 360,471 passengers. In 2008, that number was 423,504.

The lower passenger numbers haven’t stopped two construction projects at Austin Straubel. The airport is building a $7 million snow removal equipment and maintenance facility, which will be completed in October. Funds for that project – along with plans for a replacement fire truck – are
coming from federal airport improvement dollars. Funds from the State Bureau of Aeronautics are also helping to fund a $1 million ramp for aircraft at the Jet Air facility. This project creates more room for corporate jets being serviced or parked at Jet Air.

“We’re constantly looking for ways to diversify and grow,” Miller says. “We know a strong airport is good for the community.”