Communities across Calumet County are in the midst of multiple projects designed to create more housing, remove blight and move forward with new developments designed to offer fresh, innovative opportunities within the county.
Several major economic development efforts are underway in Brillion, led by the Brillion Works project. Ariens Co. is leading that project, which is clearing away many of the buildings on the property and creating space for new developments. Ariens already has a plant in one of the foundry’s former buildings. Brillion Works also recently signed an agreement with KinderCare, a licensed child care facility with multiple locations.
“That’s one of the first non-manufacturing entities to announce and sign an agreement,” says Mary Kohrell, community economic development director for Calumet County.
Brillion Works leaders envision projects such as a local brew pub restaurant or condo-type housing units as part of the overall development, which is expected to take a decade or more. “They know that it will be a long-term project but they’ve got some good momentum here on the front end,” Kohrell says.
Brillion Works is also marketing some commercial parcels along the Highway 10 corridor at the northernmost portion of the property, including discussions with some companies within Ariens’ own supply chain, Kohrell says.
“I think in a time of global pandemic and just not being sure how available your parts might be, this is really working to bring some of those suppliers basically next door,” she says.
Brillion Works and the city are working to relocate and redesign Horn Park, which was surrounded by parts of the foundry, as well as restoring a buried portion of Spring Creek, which ran under part of the structure. “That’s a really cool aspect of the project — people love parks with water,” Kohrell says.
Ariens is also stepping out of manufacturing and into the hospitality industry by creating a new division, AriensCo Hospitality. The division was formed to manage Stone Prairie, a new event space located on Center Road in Brillion.
Another major effort in Brillion is the City Center Apartment project, led by Andy Dumke of Northpointe Development. The four-story, 40-unit apartment building is funded with the help of Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority tax credits, so it will include some apartments for people with limited income as well as market-rate apartments.
City Administrator Lori Gosz says at least 25 people are already on a waiting list for the housing, which should be ready for occupancy next June.
“We had over the last few years heard from our industrial leaders that there was a need for (affordable) housing for their workers,” she says. “Now, retirees hoping to sell their homes and move into more manageable properties will open their vacated home properties up for sale to young workers with families.”
The housing project is one part of the city’s ongoing Main Street Square project, which includes a new city government building and upgrades to the neighboring community center to help revitalize the downtown area. “We’re very excited that we have this opportunity for the city and our downtown especially,” Gosz says.
New Holstein has applied for grants to help with the approximately $2.3 million cost of demolishing the former Tecumseh engine manufacturing facility, which sits on a 40-acre parcel on Michigan Avenue. The city applied for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) as well as Idle Sites Redevelopment Program grant funding through the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., says Casey Langenfeld, administrator/clerk-treasurer. The municipality also created an Environmental Remediation tax incremental district for the parcels.
“The property has been vacant now for over 10 years, basically just sitting there idle and falling apart,” she says. “It’s becoming a huge eyesore for our community and our residents are really pushing for something to happen with it.”
The city is working with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Natural Resources to ensure proper cleanup and preparation of the brownfield site for a developer. Vandewalle & Associates is conducting a market feasibility study for the site.
Hilbert has applied for CDBG funding to remove the former Bel Brands cheese plant, hoping to match the grant with county CDBG-CLOSE funding to help with demolition. Once the plant is removed, village leaders hope a convenience store
will be built on the site.
Kohrell says the county is using CDBG-CLOSE funds to support local redevelopment projects and eliminate blight in several locations.
Northwest of Hilbert in the small hamlet of St. John, the Irish cheesemaker Ornua is moving forward with a $10 million plant upgrade, adding 22,000 square feet of warehouse and cooling space. The project may create up to 50 more jobs, and construction completion is anticipated for February.
Chilton is in the process of hiring its first official administrator, who will have plenty of projects to work on. Aebi Schmidt, which makes airport sweeping equipment, acquired M-B Companies in 2018 and is expanding those facilities, which will add jobs with good wages to the area, Kohrell says.
The city received some of the county’s CDBG-CLOSE funds to demolish and clean up the former Chilton Plating building to make way for new development. The city is also using grants to conduct environmental monitoring at the site.
“It’s a strong partnership where we’re taking federal, state and county-allocated money and some city resources and we’re pooling that to help give that project a big boost,” Kohrell says.