Developer comes to Port to float bold plan

Shaffer seeks feedback from residents on proposal to redevelop two blocks, buy and raze City Hall

DETAILS OF A plan to create Ozaukee Square, a development near the heart of downtown Port Washington, were presented Saturday to Paul Grady (left ) by Shaffer Development’s Director of Operations Bob Christian. Photo by Sam Arendt
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

About 25 people showed up Saturday to get a glimpse of developer Cindy Shaffer’s plans for Ozaukee Square, a sweeping proposal that would transform two blocks near the heart of downtown Port Washington.

They gathered in an Airstream trailer parked in the Ozaukee County courthouse parking lot — a lot that is at the heart of Shaffer’s development plan.

Her plan calls for redeveloping all the properties between Wisconsin and Milwaukee streets from Grand Avenue north to Washington Street. Although the county buildings would be left intact, the plan calls for Shaffer to acquire Port City Hall and raze it as part of the development.

There would be space for a new City Hall, as well as a 26,000-square-foot library, within the development, according to the plans.

The building plans shown Saturday didn’t reveal architectural details but instead boxes that denoted where Shaffer intends to place the structures.

They also showed some building heights, including an eight-story structure along Milwaukee Street and a five-story building on the north side of the county parking lot but Shaffer said these are subject to change. That’s especially true of the building along Milwaukee Street, she said.

These are all concept conversations, Shaffer stressed, images intended to generate discussion she will use to refine her plans before she presents them to the Common Council on Oct. 18.

“Overall, it seems people really strongly support the idea of housing in downtown. They like the idea of activating the area. They like the idea of covered (public) parking,” Shaffer said.

She had boards denoting various architectural styles where those attending could mark which they prefer.

Many of those attending the session said they liked aspects of the plan but they will wait to see the final concept before making a definitive judgment.

“Having this space be more than asphalt would be nice,” Paul Grady said. But, he added, “This is a big project. I feel better about it.”

His wife Donna said that she was initially concerned that Shaffer would try to turn Port into something it isn’t and something the community would find difficult to accept.

“The population of Port is a little prickly because of the number of changes lately,” she noted.

After seeing the plans, she said, “I’m less negative.”

Don Monnot said he likes the concept and the fact that Shaffer wants to keep the “flavor of Port Washington.”

That, he said, is demonstrated by the fact she plans to move a Cream City brick house next to Poole Funeral Home to the alley between the funeral home and the Edward Jones building, creating a lineup of historic buildings in Wisconsin Street, rather than raze it.

“I’m happy to hear that kind of stuff,” Monnot said. “Paying attention to things like that will keep me supporting the project.
“My concern is not to destroy buildings that have been here a long time,” Kim Haskell  said. “We need to keep the character of Port Washington.”

Chuck Whitehouse called the plan “very ambitious,” and noted there are aspects of the plan — retaining the older buildings, bringing in housing for downtown workers and incorporating green space and a public square off Main Street — that are good for the city.

“I do think that whole area, especially that big (county) parking lot, could be used for more,” he said. But, he added, he has some concerns about the height of some of the buildings.

“It’s kind of overwhelming for us looking at them for the first time,” he said. “It’s going to change based on what people say, and that’s good. Overall, I thought it was a good idea.”

The plans presented Saturday call for a long, L-shaped building that would extend along much of Grand Avenue and up Milwaukee Street to about the north end of the alley next to the county Administration Center. The building could be four to five stories and incorporate commercial spaces, apartments and public parking, although the west side of the building could reach eight stories — something Shaffer said is likely to be shortened.

“That caused a lot of uproar,” she said. “Height is a sensitive issue.”

A public plaza was also shown at the corner of Grand Avenue and Wisconsin Street.

Along the west and north sides of what is today the county parking lot would be another L-shaped building that incorporates apartments and both private and public parking — the plan calls for there to be 20 to 30 more public parking spaces in the development than there are now, Bob Christian, Shaffer’s director of operations, said.

Shaffer had two more public meetings scheduled this week — one Wednesday from 4 to 6 p.m. and one Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Old Theatre Square building, 116 W. Grand Ave.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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