West Bend Savings Bank has announced plans for a $2.5 million, 23,000-square-foot administrative office building to be located in downtown West Bend, another project in the recent surge of development in the central business district of the Washington County community.
Ray Lipman, president of West Bend Savings Bank, said the bank’s current corporate headquarters in downtown West Bend was out of room for the bank’s continued growth. It had forced the bank to rent office space in a nearby building for some of its employees.
“This building was designed for 70 people, and we’re about 15 beyond that,” he said. “We’ve got people using conference rooms and other areas. They are just stacked on top of each other. We’ve just run out of room and we have to make a move to make our operation more efficient.”
The new building would be built on land the bank already owns at South Main Street and Veteran’s Avenue, across the street from the bank’s current headquarters. In order to have enough room for the building, Lipman said the bank has to acquire about 1,700 square feet of an adjacent city park.
It would initially provide offices for about 35 employees. Along with housing administrative workers and their support teams, the building would also contain the bank’s home and consumer lending departments.
Bank officials had originally considered adding a basement to its current building, but the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources rejected that plan because it violated the state agency’s floodplain rules.
Lipman said city officials are pleased with the project, especially given its location in a tax incremental financing district. The taxes collected in TIF districts are used by municipalities to repay borrowing necessary to develop municipal infrastructure, such as streets, sewers and water lines.
“This really is a win-win situation,” he said. “The city gets additional revenue and a stable downtown business, and we get a better working environment.”
Construction is expected to begin in September and could be completed by May of 2004, Lipman said.
Lipman said bank officials considered moving from downtown West Bend but decided that would not be in the best interests of the community. As president of the West Bend Economic Development Corp., Lipman is actively involved in downtown West Bend redevelopment plans and in trying to lure developers and companies to the area.
“It would have been much easier to go to some vacant cornfield out near the freeway and start from scratch,” he said. “But we are sensitive to the issue of urban sprawl and also wanted to showcase a company making a decision to invest in the downtown. We are hoping that others will follow our lead.”
The development is another in a string of redevelopment projects slated for downtown West Bend as city officials and community leaders work to bring residents and businesses to the central business district.
Part of trend
“People are coming back to downtowns,” said Tim Dixon, a Milwaukee developer who has proposed a $60 million to $80 million redevelopment of the former West Bend Co. property near downtown. “The allure of the suburbs is starting to fade as having to cut your big lawn every weekend sometimes gets boring. You’re seeing this trend play out throughout the United States and now it is coming to West Bend.”
Cornerstone Development, which Dixon heads, has also proposed a $3.5 million, 30,000-square-foot meeting and convention facility in the downtown area near where a Fort Atkinson development firm has proposed a $6 million, 54-room luxury hotel. City officials are also implementing plans to demolish vacant warehouse buildings and relocate a rail yard to make way for the new developments in downtown West Bend.
Lipman said city and community leaders are working on a whole new image for the city, including a marketing and branding campaign aimed at getting more people to live in downtown.
“We know this a good place to live, but we have to communicate that to people throughout the area,” he said. “We’ve learned over the years that nobody from the outside is going to help us. Our business community, which has a can-do attitude, has gotten together and decided to do what is necessary to help move this redevelopment along.”