By Thanksgiving, Oak Creek officials will have proposals to redevelop the heart of the city: the 86-acre site of the former Delphi Automotive Systems operations.
But whether City Hall and the library will be on the property — an idea supported by Mayor Dick Bolender — is anybody’s guess.
“This is the center of our community,” Bolender said of the former Delphi site. “You would plan and prepare if you are going to buy a house or go on a vacation. We have to plan and prepare for what we want this property to become.”
The request for proposals to redevelop the former Delphi site — as well as the 12-acre parcel containing City Hall, the library and Fire Station No. 1 — has generated interest. Already a half-dozen developers have taken out papers, said Doug Seymour, Oak Creek’s director of economic development. The request for proposals is also available on several websites, he said. Proposals are due Nov. 24.
“We believe there will be significant interest in the project,” Seymour said. “We are looking ahead for what the city needs in the long term.”
Despite an earlier division among the council members over the request for proposals, all are now on board, said Alderman Dan Jakubczyk.
“This is a prime manufacturing site and that’s what I’d like to see it remain,” Jakubczyk said. “But given the current state of the economy, I don’t see a plant moving in.”
Like many suburbs, Oak Creek has never had a downtown. The city was developed around its industrial plants such as the former Delphi site at Howell and Drexel avenues, said Alderman Tom Michalski. The prime days for manufacturing at the site are gone, he said, adding that it’s time for Oak Creek to have a downtown, with or without a civic center anchor.
Bolender said he would like a civic center to be the anchor for the property. He envisions a building with a library on the ground floor, City Hall on the second and three or four floors of office space above. The leased office space could pay the cost of the building, he said.
There is a consensus that Oak Creek needs a new City Hall. The current building, at 8640 S. Howell Ave., is too small, too old and damaged by this summer’s floods, Bolender said.
The time may be right to build a new civic center, he said. Contractors, hungry for work, are offering bargain prices and interest rates are at historic lows, he said. In 2011, Oak Creek will begin getting $3 million a year from We Energies for power produced at the Elm Road generating station.
The money from We Energies likely will be used to pay for needed civic improvements such as the City Hall and library, Bolender said.
Jakubczyk agreed the civic improvements are needed but said his constituents have said City Hall and the library should remain at their current location.
“I think the mayor and the plan commission have a selling job ahead of them,” Jakubczyk said. “Unless they get the people on board, it would be political suicide to move City Hall.”
The request for proposals could be too broad, Michalski said, noting that there are options for developing the Delphi site with and without a civic center as well as options for the Howell Avenue property.
“It snowballed a bit,” Michalski said of the options listed in the request for proposals. “I am concerned that we put in so many options that it may be too broad and difficult to come to a consensus on what needs to be done.”