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Lakeshore Vista loses land donation

Dec. 23, 2013

Oak Creek — Lakeshore Vista, the city's planned 250-acre lakefront development north of Bender Park, has taken a hit in The Connell Group's decision not to give the city 22.5 acres in the center of the project.

The city had planned to build a $10 million park on the site. Loss of that land will mean less public space in Lakeshore Vista, but, as City Administrator Gerald Peterson pointed out, the property will now generate taxes instead of being reliant on public support.

City Attorney Larry Haskins announced the news to the Common Council on Dec. 17, speculating the owners may want to develop it for themselves or sell it to another partners.

While this latest news changes the look of Lakeshore Vista, plans for the development continue to evolve in other ways as well.

The cost factor

The council approved investing $10 million in bonds for the development of bicycle paths, an extension of Highway 100 and to look for grants. The money will be used for projects in 2014 and has a goal of obtaining $10 million in new grants.

The entire development cost to the city is estimated at $28.8 million — $20 million less than the 2011 estimate, partially because the park won't be developed. The remainder of the savings comes from eliminating pathways leading directly to the lake and from grant dollars that have already been won.

The project's total cost could be significantly impacted by what the city decides to do about bluff stabilization.

Consultant JJR Smithgroup was hired in September to develop a plan to stop bluff erosion along Lake Michigan. The bluffs have been receding by an average of one-half foot to 11/2 feet per year since the 1950s.

The group found many of the bluffs on the northern portion of the city's lakefront need significant work. The bluffs need to be graded, the base needs to be reinforced with a hard surface to stop the waves from cutting into them and the entire area needs ponds to stop stormwater from eroding the bluff face.

Bluff work reconsidered

The cost, however, may be too high, Peterson said.

"We're hearing from the public that they want to see more of the amenities needed in the park, playground and structures," he added.

The bluffs that need the most work are on land that has been slated mainly for business and apartment development, and Peterson said the public won't get as much use out of city money dedicated to developing those areas. The bluffs on the south side, where the majority of park land will be, have been the subject of significant work. They've been graded and have a rock wall to stop wave erosion.

The city has received $595,000 in grant money to stop stormwater erosion on the top of the bluffs, but nothing is set in stone regarding the approval of city money for stabilizing the bluff face or base.

Peterson said that if nothing is done to curb erosion, there is potential for pollutants from the old industrial activity to seep into Lake Michigan.

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