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Friday

August 2014

29

Could Rockwell revival be in the works?

City, developers have been meeting over last few weeks

City of Oconomowoc — Will the Rockwell Village project still happen? Although it's been a year since the last development on the project, and although no new reports of activity are evident, there seems to be something going on at City Hall that indicates the project will happen - although when might be is still up in the air.

The Common Council went into closed session on the matter Tuesday night. Mayor Jim Daley said city staff and Rockwell representatives have met for the past two weeks. He declined to disclose anything more about the closed session meeting other than to say that he wanted to see what kind of support the council gives the project. In general, Daley said there is renewed interest in the project.

At this time last year, managing member of Rockwell Development LLC, Rob Perry said the project was "in a temporary hold," because it could not get any financing given the economic climate at the time. When he was interviewed Friday, Perry said things haven't gotten much better as far as financing, but he couldn't say enough about his experience under Daley's leadership.

"I'm unbelievably pleased at the dramatic change of political environment," he said. "We had one meeting, and I was absolutely speechless with what was discussed and how it was discussed. I think from an outsider's view, the City of Oconomowoc has elected an absolute winner of a mayor, and while he's not going to make everyone happy all the time" the future is bright for Oconomowoc, he said.

Perry, who described his thoughts on the project as "cautiously optimistic," said there's a completely different feel walking into City Hall now.

He said there has been an uptick in real estate sales in Lake Country, but the timeline for Rockwell has definitely changed, and he said they're focusing on 18 or more months in the future, which Perry said should be a much better sales environment.

"I don't see lenders getting very enthusiastic about anything large or multifamily for many years. We know our units will sell because they are so unique," and because of the location, Perry said. "But how do we get from an approved plan to financing? There's a gap there that still has to be closed."

The approved plan for the development is four single-family homes facing Pleasant Street, with a T-shaped building behind that to house parking and condos, Perry said. He said plans call for a storefront on St. Paul Street, with anticipation of housing a small coffee shop or artisans of some sort.

Perry said that last year there were about 40 potential buyers interested in the project, and although he said that number has waned, every time Rockwell Village is written about in a newspaper or mentioned somewhere he receives calls. "There is interest; is the list 40 now? No, people have done other things," he said.

But Perry is optimistic that the downtown housing will sell once it is constructed. "Nobody wants to move far from the lake. If they sell their house on the lake, they still want to look at it," he said.

Overall, Perry was enthusiastic about working with Daley and the city on this project.

"I think there's an opportunity that for the last couple of years has been squandered. I believe Oconomowoc is on the right track with Mayor Daley, and I'm very enthusiastic for what Oconomowoc has going," Perry said.

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