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Graduate students to show off plans for redeveloped Capitol Drive corridor in Shorewood

A rendering of a "high intensity" redevelopment of the current Baker's Square site at the intersection of Capitol and Wilson drives.

A rendering of a "high intensity" redevelopment of the current Baker's Square site at the intersection of Capitol and Wilson drives.

April 9, 2013

Shorewood - A group of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Urban Planning graduate students will unveil plans for a re-imagined Capitol Drive corridor April 16 as part of a student project that could ultimately help shape the future of the area.

Their project, which focuses on West Capitol Drive between Oakland Avenue and the Milwaukee River, addresses a number of "underutilized" properties which could be redeveloped to increase density, make the area more pedestrian friendly, and bolster the tax base.

"I think the village has a strong vision for where they want to be and where they want to go," said Brian Peterson, one of the students involved on the project. "We're not necessarily reinventing the wheel, just helping them see where the vision would take them."

At the same time, school district leaders see a redevelopment of Capitol Drive as an opportunity to rethink the high school and Intermediate school campus, which straddles Capitol and Oakland, and bisects the business district.

"This kind of project, I think, is going to prompt that kind of planning," Superintendent Martin Lexmond said. "I think this will be sort of a catalyst to get that conversation going."

Components of the UWM students' project could be worked into an updated central district master plan next year, said Village Planning and Zoning Director Ericka Lang, meaning the students vision could take shape as soon as 2015.

Foot traffic, higher density key

Sites like Baker's Square, the drive-through Wells Fargo, Citgo gas station, Post Office, Shorewood Auto Repair, the old Pig 'n Whistle and vacant lot behind it, are focal points of the redevelopment plan.

The student plan shows redevelopments on the sites which range from rehabs to teardowns and rebuilds of varying size and complexity.

Generally speaking, Peterson said, the plan calls for mixed-use developments along the corridor - similar to the two story commercial/residential properties in the area today - to increase commercial and population density along the corridor.

By increasing the footprint of buildings, some of which only cover between 10-15 percent of their lots now, density and property values can increase.

"There's obviously opportunities to increase your tax base," Peterson said. "They've been envisioning having a higher density corridor."

Another guiding principle of the redevelopment is pedestrian-friendly planning.

"You're thinking of walkability, of people biking, of a destination where you can walk up and down the corridor," Peterson said. "We took that vision to what the corridor could look like in ten to fifteen years."

Campus could be included, developed

Referred to as the district's "front yard," the grassy section buffering the high school, Oakland and Capitol could also come into play as planning progresses.

"There's just this sea of front yard that's underutilized," Lang said.

A public plaza had been proposed at the corner of the front yard at the intersection of Capitol and Oakland and could be again, Lang said.

School Board President Rob Reinhoffer said that a redeveloped Capitol Drive would benefit the district, and that the front yard, both on Oakland and Capitol, could be potential development sites someday - ultimately unifying the disconnected northern and southern halves of the village's business district.

"There's no continuity in the business district," Reinhoffer said. "The idea is you need a more contiguous kind of downtown area, and the only way that can happen is if we're open to some kind of development."

A thriving downtown, Lexmond said, could encourage more foot traffic and bring in more parents to the district.

"If we can encourage more development that does that," Lexmond said, "that's of interest to me."

All of these ideas exist in the abstract now, School Board member Colin Plese said, but could enter the community conversation after the presentation next week.

"It creates the perfect platform to start a discussion."

IF YOU GO

WHAT: West Capitol Drive corridor redevelopment open house

WHEN: 6:30 p.m. April 16

WHERE: Village Center (library lower level), 3920 N. Murray Ave.

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