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Concerns surround Shorewood development plans

Sept. 3, 2014

Shorewood — Every five years or so, Shorewood officials think big about how to improve the central business district.

This year, the central business district master plan process has drawn some concerns. Specifically, residents are concerned with the idea to replace the Shorewood High School parking lot with an underground parking structure topped with green space. Some residents are also concerned about the idea of building townhomes along the west end of Wilson Drive, which would take 16 feet of roadway out of that street.

One of those concerned residents is Donna Pollock. A Shorewood resident of more than 40 years, the Alpine Drive resident has been opposed to the narrowing of Wilson Drive since it was first proposed roughly six years ago. Pollock said she is concerned about the elimination of trees and foliage, as well as a potential increase in traffic congestion on the north-south thoroughfare.

"We only have three arterials in the village: Wilson Drive, Oakland Avenue and Lake Drive," she said. "The traffic flow is going to be a significant problem. How are they going to redirect that traffic?"

Wildwood Avenue resident David Holdhaber said the rush-hour traffic, combined with the blockage caused by stopped buses, would cause frustrated motorists to find other avenues, like his residential side street.

No developer has presented plans to build townhomes on Wilson Drive, Village Manager Chris Swartz said, but a steering committee — and most recently the Community Development Authority — have studied the feasibility and public opinion of building 47 townhomes on the west side of the street from Olive Street to Kensington Boulevard. If these townhomes were to be developed, Wilson Drive would be narrowed from 58 feet to 42 feet.

Swartz said the Wilson Drive discussions aim to determine whether Wilson Drive should be narrowed, whether more connections should be made between Wilson Drive and the Oak Leaf Bike Trail and whether it would be an appropriate location for more residential development.

"We are looking at ways to make Wilson Drive more of a neighborhood than a thoroughfare," he said.

No plan in place

Because these plans are conceptual, consultants have not calculated cost estimates or performed studies into market demand, green space or traffic impact.

The village board approved a Wilson Drive corridor planning process in 2010, but those plans took a back seat after the flooding troubles later that year. In November, those plans were rolled into the central business district master plan process, which typically focuses on Capitol Drive and Oakland Avenue.

The Wilson Drive proposal is just a small piece of a larger central business district master plan that focuses on the redevelopment of a dozen sites on Capitol Drive and Oakland Avenue, as well as looking at transportation, retail, housing and other planning topics. This plan would update the last central business district master plan drafted in 2006, which was meant to plan about five years into the future, said Planning and Zoning Administrator Ericka Lang. Out of the 20 redevelopment opportunities identified in the 2006 plan, five of those were brought to fruition.

Swartz said the master plan is an exercise in determining what possibilities exist within the village, with the realization that those possibilities may or may not become a reality.

"There's a lot of plans we've had over the years," he said. "Some things fall off, some things change and some are implemented. But not planning is not an option for us. That's the worst thing you can do."

The village hosted two informational meetings about the central business district master planning process in March and May, and has solicited feedback from residents through an online survey.

Another piece of the plan that has turned some heads in the village is the idea of turning the Shorewood High School parking lot into a green common area with two levels of underground parking, offering 160 underground parking spaces. Swartz said the idea for the parking structure arose from conversations with the school district.

The plans also include a two-story, 16,000-square-foot commercial building with first floor retail space and second floor office space just east of the parking structure along Oakland Avenue. Like the Wilson Drive town homes, the structures at Shorewood High School are conceptual, and no cost estimates or price tags have been tagged to the plans.

Swartz said the central business district master plan will likely be introduced to both the plan commission and village board in October. Once the plan commission reaches a verdict on the plan, it will go before the Village Board for a final decision — most likely in January.

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