TOP PHOTO: Abandoned restaurant on 27th street directly across the street from the Northwestern Mutual corporate campus, 2006. ABOVE: Same abandoned restaurant, 30 minutes ago.
An interesting debate is occurring in neighboring Oak Creek and Franklin regarding a proposed Interchange on Drexel Avenue.
Let's get this out of the way right now: This interchange will be built. Promises have been made, money has changed hands. The question is whether Franklin will be suckered into paying for an interchange we don't need.
The proposed interchange is in Oak Creek, directly adjacent to their growing Howell Avenue commercial corridor, a strip-mall-clogged, drive-thru abomination that nonetheless provides some level of sales tax and property tax revenue to the city, and that's nothing to sneeze at.The citizens of Oak Creek -- which is an otherwise beautiful suburban community, don't get me wrong -- probably don’t point to this particular strip with civic pride (but, hey, there’s a Sonic Drive-In there!). On the other hand, a huge plot of land containing an abandoned manufacturing plant is ripe for just the kind of development that direct proximity to an interchange can bring; a new interchange would almost certainly put that parcel into play. Oak Creek has much to gain from what is to Franklin a superfluous interchange.
The length of Drexel Avenue between the proposed interchange and 27th Street, which is supposed to be marketed and developed as an Oak Creek/Franklin partnership, is laughably under-engineered. Though the road is ostensibly part of the Oak Leaf Bike Trail, it has no shoulder to speak of and is a virtual death-trap for any biker brave enough to traverse it.
The State Department of Transportation, which requires a 50% local-money commitment to new interchanges, has set a May 1st deadline for Franklin and Oak Creek to collaborate on funding their "shares."
Northwestern Mutual, whose campus in on the Franklin side of 27th Street, has offered to contributes $1.6 million to the interchange project. So their employees can get to work 90 seconds quicker from the south? No -- they own the empty land on the Oak Creek side of 27th Street, where an urban village has been envisioned.Now it gets complicated, and I’ll paraphrase at this point. As part of the Oak Creek/Franklin 27th Street partnership, both cities committed to a half million dollars each for “enhanced lighting” on 27th Street.
Anyway, long story short: The State DOT said, in effect, we’ll pay for the “enhanced lighting” (“enhanced lighting”?), if Oak Creek and Franklin toss their funds originally earmarked for “enhanced lighting” (“enhanced lighting”?!?!) into the “build an Interchange” pot.
So, instead of paying for what could be considered an improvement for the potential 27th Street Corridor -- of benefit to Franklin AND Oak Creek -- Franklin taxpayers will be tricked into paying a half million dollars for an Oak Creek interchange of no real benefit to Franklin, a city which is bracketed nicely by the Rawson and Ryan Interchanges.
Last night, according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
The Franklin Common Council deadlocked on a proposal made by Ald. Steve Olson. Olson proposed that Franklin pay for $500,000 in lighting improvements on S. 27th St. that normally would be the obligation of the DOT if the DOT built the Drexel interchange and required no money from Franklin for the interchange.
You don't even have to read between the lines to see the folly of such a move! The Trojan Horse was stopped at the door. For now.
Funny thing is: Oak Creek also took no action regarding the Drexel Interchange.
They are turning out to be much better poker players than the Franklin side of the road.
Part 2 to come, in which we discuss bad poker, new priorities and opportunities, and the effects of cognitive dissonance on 27th Street Steering Committee members ...