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Top 10 Stories of the Year

Ballpark commons advances to next base

The Franklin common council approved a preliminary proposal for Ballpark Commons this spring and established a new Tax Incremental District in September to help fund the new development.

The Ballpark Commons project is set to add new apartments, a hotel, a large sports complex, and a sports village, featuring businesses and apartments.

Though many pieces are in place, there are a variety of conditions the project still has to meet, one of which includes receiving a report from the Department of Natural Resources approving the area for development – a requirement because parts of the property would be built on what used to be a landfill.

New middle school referendum passes

Residents of the Franklin School District passed a $43.3 million referendum to fund a new building for Forest Park Middle School during the election Nov. 8.

Earlier in the year, the district sent out a survey asking for feedback on different solutions for Forest Park's space issues. The Board of Education then decided that the best solution would be to build a new building with larger classrooms, science labs, a secure entrance, and larger gym.

The district plans to break ground on the new building in spring 2017, hopefully completing the project in time for the 2018-2019 school year, when sixth grade will be added to the building.

Bosch Tavern makes its big move

The Bosch Tavern moved 25 feet west from its original location in order to make room for expanding Highway 100. On Saturday, Oct. 8, hundreds of people showed up for the "Tavern Tug" event, where 200 volunteers pulled the 160-ton building the last five feet to its final location.

The entire project is estimated to cost nearly $3 million, with 10.83 percent, or $320,000, funded by the village of Hales Corners from the closed Tax Increment Financing District No. 2.

According to owner Rick Putlitz, the restaurant will be open again early 2017.

China Lights a stunning success

The China Lights festival at Boerner Botanical Gardens ran from Oct. 1 to Nov. 6, one week longer than planned, selling over 100,000 tickets.

This high turnout was double what the planners had originally expected, and official estimate that around half of the attendees were first time visitors to the botanical gardens. The festival featured themed weekends, traditional Chinese food and entertainment, and 1,000 individual lanterns, including a three-story Chinese palace pagoda and a 200-foot dragon.

Boerner is already making plans for the festival to return next year, slightly earlier in the fall.

Weber out, Kulik in 

Hales Corners said goodbye to its 22-year village administrator and said hello new a new village admin this summer.

Former village administrator Mike Weber retired Aug. 4. Village officials and community members honored his going-away by throwing a party filled with gifts for Weber, kind words, and Irish dancing.

Sandy Kulik stepped in earlier that summer to fill Weber's place. Kulik came to the village with 16 years of previous government work and was previously the finance manager for the city of Brookfield.

Oak Creek City Administrator Gerald Peterson retires

Oak Creek's City Administrator Gerald Peterson retired after 6 years in Oak Creek.  While there, Oak Creek saw drastic growth with many new businesses coming in and the creation of Drexel Town Square, the new city center made up of businesses, the civic center, apartments, and other elements.

Peterson said he views Oak Creek as a community that had challenging development issues but achieved a significant success nonetheless. When he came to the job in 2010, Peterson said Oak Creek officials wanted a new city hall and a new library, and they got it.  He said the common council chose to invest in the city and it's paying off.

Andrew Vickers took over for Peterson in November.

Oak Creek part of country's largest urban orchard

The city welcomed an orchard to be planted on the Oak Creek Parkway off Howell Ave. The project is part of the county's S.E.E.D. program, which stands for Sowing, Empowering, and Eliminating Deserts of food.  The program was vetoed by County Executive Chris Abele, but county supervisors voted to override the veto in June 2015.

Growing Power, a Milwaukee-based non-profit, was involved in the planting of the orchard.  About eight acres of county land have been set aside in Oak Creek along with two acres of county land in McGovern Park on Milwaukee's north side for the planting.  Fruit won't be harvestable for at least two years, according to Growing Power's orchard specialist Jan Carroll.

Carroll said in addition to the 185 trees -- a mixture of plum, pear, and apple -- being planted on the Oak Creek site, herbs were also included.  She said the herbs, such as oregano and thyme, will be producing income at the orchard much sooner than the trees.  Eventually, the goal is to have 3,000 trees planted.

Greendale part of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Appropriately sporting green attire, Greendale High School's 270-member marching band was one of seven high school bands chosen to participate in the 90th Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Nov. 24 in New York City.

In addition to participating in the parade, the band toured New York, visiting the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the 9/11 memorial and museum, the Lincoln Center and Central Park. They also saw "Aladdin" on Broadway and had a Thanksgiving dinner cruise on the Hudson.

Oak Creek Police Chief involved with Sikh Temple shooting retires

Former Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards retired in July.  He took a job at Froedtert Community Memorial Hospital in Menomonee Falls as director of security.

Edwards said he'd planned on leaving in March 2017 but this opportunity came up. While chief, Edwards dealt with the Sikh temple shooting in 2012 when Wade Michael Page opened fire at 7512 S. Howell Avenue.

Wanting to be 'known for the response, not the incident,' Edwards spoke to how the community came together with the Sikh people, a group he said many didn't know anything about but it didn't matter, they all 'rallied around them.' Because of the incident at the Sikh temple, Edwards was asked to come to the White House in 2013 and met with President Barack Obama.

IKEA coming to Oak Creek

IKEA announced in May their intention to build a facility in Oak Creek. Joseph Roth, an expansion public affairs representative for IKEA, said the retailer had been looking to open a store in Wisconsin, specifically the Milwaukee area, on and off for about 10 years.

Company officials finally found what they were looking for in Oak Creek at the intersection of Drexel and I-94 — at a highway interchange that's relatively new, Roth noted.

If plans are ultimately approved, construction is expected to begin in 2017 on the 295,000 square-foot facility pending city approval with an opening date of summer 2018, according to a news release May 5.

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