Hoping to receive a myriad of proposals for developing the land near the old Riverbrook Restaurant, village officials have determined a working ideal: Construct senior living along East Capitol Drive as soon as possible, and save the back portion for more profitable housing when the market improves.
Village Manager Chris Swartz led two focus group meetings in June to discuss options for the 6.9 acres of undeveloped land dubbed the “Milwaukee River Site.”
Though the site is split between owners including two parcels owned by Sunrise Development, including the old Pig 'n Whistle at 1111 E. Capitol Dr., and another by Milwaukee PC owner James Petr, both land owners are eager to sell their land.
As all parcels currently have strictly specialized zoning requirements, any development proposals would likely have to be approved by the village for a Planned Development District, allowing for unique zoning changes.
Village officials hope to take this opportunity to develop a long-term plan for the whole area, and accept proposals accordingly, though the parcels could be bought and developed separately.
“The optimum development would coordinate all three of the parcels,” Village Trustee Michael Maher, who participated one of the focus groups, said. “It’s a major development opportunity, and key because it’s right on the Milwaukee River — an environmental corridor — and an entrance to the village.”
Swartz said senior living would be an ideal early development because of favorable market demand, but that other housing — be it townhouses, condos, or apartments — would be more profitable if the village waits for better market conditions.
Sunrise originally bought the Riverbrook site with plans to construct a $16 million senior facility, but abandoned that plan when the economy soured.
Maher said a priority for him when looking at development proposals will be protecting the river.
“It’s a precious resource and we don’t want to put anything in there that would harm the river,” he said.
Swartz said many developers have approached the village with ideas, none of which village officials were keen on. He said there could be more proposals now that construction on Capitol Drive and the Oak Leaf Bike Trail bridge is nearing completion, and with the former Riverbrook Restaurant soon to be razed.