Last Friday's Business Journal featured an article covering Franklin's Orchard View Shopping Center on 76th & Rawson. The focus of the article was on the center's recruiting of tenants, as well as the center's long-term plans. Included also were several quotes from Franklin resident & developer Jim O'Malley, whose family owns the shopping center and parcel of land directly behind it.
I feel the issue here is the status of the 76th & Rawson intersection itself. There are some, like Mr. O'Malley, who view the intersection as one that can only hold a "neighborhood" shopping environment - the food stores, drug stores, local small businesses, coffee shops, fast food joints, etc. However at the same time there are folks like me who are taking a lot of things into consideration and creating a larger vision than what could be in the minds of some.
Combine all of this and you'll see where I'm coming from:
- 51 acres are up for sale directly SW of the Franklin Centre shopping center (Pick n Save & Office Max development)
- 20 or so acres are for sale on the western side of Loomis Road along Rawson Avenue & Old Loomis Road
- A Hampton Inn & Suites hotel has been proposed directly north of the Citgo
- The Mayor and Mr. O'Malley have discussed a revitalization of Crystal Ridge Ski Hill several times over the recent years
- O'Malley owns 15 acres directly east of Orchard View
- approx. 8 acres are up for sale in front of those 15 acres, along Rawson Avenue
- The 5 Star Coffee/Ka building needs tenants
- Upscale, high end tenants were considering locations within the Fountains of Franklin shopping center before the Foxes decided not to sell their property, and the City of Franklin decided not to enforce their ordinances, thus killing that project.
If higher end tenants, the Ann Taylors, Coldwater Creeks, Jos. A. Banks, Jareds, etc. were interested in a site 20 blocks to the east, across from a quarry, with only one true major road access (Rawson) - how does a site 20 blocks west, in what many label as a "downtown", with three major roads accessible (76th, Loomis, Rawson), and just south of a major shopping center (Southridge) appeal to them? I'd argue very good, since these retailers wouldn't focus on Southridge due to its demographics and a lack of motivation from the mall's owners to change the ship's course. Furthermore, there are many retailers and restaurants who still need to build a location south of I-94.
(Again, another if here) If those who hold the keys and power want to develop 76th & Rawson into a true central business district, this is the time. I think folks like O'Malley are almost forced into considering what the intersection will be, now and in the future. Will it just be a place with drug stores and grocers and banks and what not, or will it take on a form where it becomes a true and vibrant downtown, serving a community, a region, rather than a couple of neighborhoods.
With the amount of acreage up for sale, and the amount of space up for lease at Orchard View, the time is NOW to plan and move forward with one of those two options. Personally, I'd like to see 76th & Rawson become its full potential:
- Crystal Ridge anchoring some recreational activites
- The 20 or so acres on the western side of Loomis holding offices
- The 51 acres next to the Franklin Centre strip mall becoming a mixed use residential, office, and retail mix
- The Hampton Inn being built behind the Citgo
- The 5 Star/Ka building becoming a singular coffee shop or restaurant
- Orchard View, the 15 acres behind it, and the 8 acres along Rawson joining forces and becoming another mixed use residential, retail, and office center
The City of Franklin & the Franklin Public School District would be oozing with new revenue streams with that vision. Couple it with what nearly 270 residents would like to see happen at the Milwaukee County Sports Complex, and Franklin becomes a hub of activity and growth, and I'd be willing to bet that taxes for residents will stabilize, if not drop slightly. This is something that the Economic Development Commission should discuss - but hey, they cannot even make quorums these days!
This is what investing in a community does, and again - why this needs to occur NOW.