You Paid for It: A Shining Shorewood
Economic redevelopment is sort of like a trip to Vegas. You have to bet big to win big. The Village of Shorewood put up big bucks to beef up it's business district. Village leaders are banking on a big-time return, but if things don't go as planned, you'll pay for it.
Earlier this month dozens of Shorewood's residents packed a village meeting hall for a progress report on the $19.5 million plan to shore up the aging business district.
"We're trying to really spruce it up to really make it an attractive community," explained village board president Guy Johnson.
The focus: Oakland Avenue and Capitol Drive. Better streets and sidewalks, new lighting and landscaping, facelifts for old buildings and plans for more new buildings with storefronts and high-end condos.
To get things rolling, Shorewood borrowed nearly $3.5 million through bond sales. Revenue from those bonds bought the first round of street-side improvements, and created a huge pile of cash that the village offers to developers as incentives to build.
The hope is that developers will build enough of the right kind of stuff to boost property values and build up the tax-base -- money that would then get pumped back into the business district.
Many in the crowd seemed impressed.
"I think the village has done a remarkable job of getting this development work done," said long-time taxpayer Bob Kelly.
However, village leaders aren't advertising the fact that if the redevelopment doesn't happen as fast enough, taxpayers would be on the hook to pay back those bonds.
"I think it's an economic black hole," sighed taxpayer Dan Peterson after listening to the progress report.
There are other issues, too. As part of the master plan, UWM employee Travis Jones' apartment building will most likely get sold and torn down to make way for new development.
"Once again, it's the rich versus the poor, and in this case the poor is getting the little end of the stick, yet we all pay taxes," said Jones.
Others in Shorewood worry about issues like increased traffic, the impact on surrounding residential neighborhoods, and whether the village can get it all done.
"It's a fluid plan," admitted board president Guy Johnson. "we know that things are going to change, but if you don't have a plan that you're starting with, you're just going to let randomness take over, too, and that's what we're trying to avoid."
Despite the risk, if all this does work out, some projections show Shorewood's business district could be worth $100 million to $400 million more than it is today in just 14 years.
If you have concerns or questions about Shorewood's redevelopement plans, call or email the people in charge.