VILLAGE OF ELM GROVE - Just over a year after announcing plans to redevelop the Reinders property in the heart of downtown, Wangard Partners says that the project is unlikely to happen in the near future.
The Wauwatosa-based developer had planned to build 182 apartments in five buildings at 13420 Watertown Plank Road, but those plans were met with skepticism from a number of residents to the point that in April village president Neil Palmer established an ad hoc committee to review the project.
Last October Wangard returned to the village with revamped plans that reduced the number of buildings in the development along with their heights and the overall unit density. The new proposal also attempted to address a number of other issues, including adding more green space, creating more permeable views and making the development more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly. The development also would have included some retail space to be located below residences along Watertown Plank Road.
However, in January Wangard president Wayne Wiertzema wrote a letter to Elm Grove officials saying the developer had determined the project's success would "require further study of options."
Monday, Wiertzema issued a statement that casts doubt over the proposal being rekindled.
"Wangard Partners has made the difficult decision to withdraw indefinitely its redevelopment proposal for the Reinders property in Elm Grove," Wiertzema said. "We wish to express sincere gratitude to the village board for their collaboration over the past year and we thank the Reinders family for their hard work and professionalism."
Wiertzema went on to say that the developer is glad to have learned more about Elm Grove through the process and would be happy to consider future opportunities in the village.
"While the Wangard Redevelopment at Reinders was simply not the right project at the time for the village of Elm Grove, Wangard has valued the opportunity to learn more about the village and its residents and we hope that Elm Grove continues to identify unique and varied opportunities to progress as a community in ways that respect its rich tradition," Wiertzema said. "We welcome the chance to work with the village again in the future."
Elm Grove village president Neil Palmer noted that he believed there was still an opportunity for the village and Wangard to see eye-to-eye on the development, but he understood their decision.
"I've come to terms with it. I'm disappointed. I believe there was still opportunity for all parties to continue to cooperate and work toward a mutually beneficial project, but I understand completely why they see it differently," Palmer said. "They put a great deal of time and money into this project already and they obviously have other opportunities they chose to move on to."
Elm Grove Business Association president Mary Inden has expressed disappointment that the Wangard proposal has been withdrawn.
"Regarding the Wangard property, if we are lucky enough to get them to come back with a new, different proposal, I think we need to have a slightly different approach to it," Inden said.
Inden suggested the year-long review process of the project may have been too lengthy.
Palmer felt that the lack of a clear end in sight for the process was the primary issue for the developer rather than the year already spent.
"It's not at all unusual for a process to take that long. I think it's more the indefiniteness and the uncertainty that there was a commitment on the part of the village to move forward," Palmer said. "You don't want to keep working on something when you're not getting the right signs."
Moving forward, Palmer said that he is not picky about what particular type of use ends up coming to the property.
"Basically I would just like to see it put to a much higher use to bring new life into our downtown. It's a question of how do you find that sweet spot which is the highest level of quality and value that has minimum impacts that people may be uncomfortable with," Palmer said. "This is a decent property that for many, many years the vast majority of the village has wanted to see with a better use. We've just not ever been able to find it."