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April 2014

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Pabst Farms mall coming soon?

Mayor appoints ad-hoc committee to meet next week

City of Oconomowoc - Are we seeing signs of life at the dormant Pabst Farms Retail Center site? Mayor Jim Daley said there are imminent things coming," at Pabst Farms which could mean a serious tenant secured to break ground at the mall.

Three Common Council members Tuesday night got a surprise appointment. Alderman and Common Council President, Dave Nold, and aldermen Mike Miller and James Larsen now makeup an ad-hoc committee for the Pabst Farms development.

Daley made his "last-minute" announcement shortly before the council went into closed session on another matter Tuesday. Nold said he hopes it's an indication there is movement afoot for development of the Pabst Farms Town Centre.

The 1-million-square-foot mall has been the most-anticipated and most-delayed component of the Pabst Farms development. Pabst and city officials in the past have said the economic downfall over the past several years has been the main reason the mall hasn't been developed. In the meantime, housing has sprouted up, the Aurora Medical Centre has been built, and commercial development has sprouted up in Pabst Farms.

The development has done so well its tax incremental financing district (TIF) is set to pay off ahead of schedule and has recently been selected as a donor TIF. The donor TIF designation will allow some extra Pabst TIF increment to be allotted to the city's downtown TIF, which is lagging behind for repayment after a lack of development in the past several years.

Daley declined to give additional comment Tuesday night on the reason behind the new committee. "We're still defining the scope of what we are trying to do," said Daley after the announcement.

When he appointed the committee, Daley said his selection of the three members was to "create a balanced approach to imminent things that are coming," adding that the committee is for the "economic and community betterment specific to negotiations with Pabst Farms."

"I know they've been working on different things. We'll see what they have. I think it's positive whatever they can do," said Nold.

Last spring, Common Council approved spending the final $3 million in Pabst TIF funds to build two roadways to the development - the southeast arterial and north/south road. The roads were the last piece of infrastructure to ready the development for the regional mall and another potential tenant.

"They were preparing for something," said Nold referring to the roadways.

In fall 2010, Nold voted to approve spending TIF funds on a joint project between Pabst, the city and the state Department of Transportation for the Pabst Farms interchange. Larsen voted against it, arguing that the city should have contributed less. Miller voted for the measure.

At the time, City Administrator Diane Gard said, "With the southeast arterial being completed, then the site is ready for whatever happens, whether that is DDR (Developers Diversified Realty) and their development (the mall), or if you have that one business looking for a site to build a campus on. With the way we're aligning the road, that area is ready."

Last summer, DDR gave way to Pabst Farms Retail Inc., which took over work to lease and develop the regional mall.

When asked if the change from DDR was a bad sign, Daley said no. "I don't think it hurts the project but strengthens the focus," Daley previously said.

The committee meets at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13, at City Hall.

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