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FRANKLIN - Like elements of baseball's spring training, with similar uncertainties about the final product, plans for the $101.2 million Ballpark Commons project in Franklin predictably in flux but moving along.

Zimmerman Ventures development team will present an update to the the Franklin Common Council's committee of the whole March 6 as they continue with their previously announced plan to break ground on the project in 2017.

City Economic Development Director Aaron Hertzberg presented a brief update on the project at the common council meeting Tuesday Feb. 21. The city has been working regularly with the project's development team for the past year.

More information, Hertzberg said, will hopefully be provided March 6, where the development team will present an update with revised site plans and more details about the progress they have made.

Working with land

Much of the work that has been done since September, when Franklin approved a tax increment district in the area, has been to better understand the land itself and its challenges to development. The development team has received various reports and hired engineers to refine the site plan accordingly, particularly addressing the issue of the historic landfill.

At this point, nothing has been submitted to the city or Milwaukee County for approval.

Some of the last major changes came when planned multi-family housing south of Rawson Avenue was pushed farther away from neighbors to the west and changed from town homes to apartments.

Other elements of the project are shifting as well, according to Hertzberg. What was formerly suggested as a large indoor complex, then adjusted to a series of smaller buildings, is being moved around to better avoid a historic landfill on the property.

More development

Other parts of the plan are in flux, as well.

“We have a sense, although we don’t have the details yet, ... that they are talking to potential users of the site – potential businesses that would function within the retail settings. … So they are sizing buildings accordingly," Hertzberg said.

He also expressed a positive outlook for other development occurring nearby the Ballpark Commons, such as a new dental facility.

Hertzberg also mentioned that the city has been working with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to evaluate whether additional traffic caused by Ballpark Commons would require any major infrastructure changes to Highway 36, and officials determined that the development can move forward with no major changes at this time. If any changes would be needed, it would likely be farther to the east.

Slow ahead

In response to resident concerns about how slowly the project seems to be moving, Alderman Steve Taylor noted that it is a complex project, which demands a lot of time.

"It’s a project that I would have loved to have had the shovel in the ground six months ago, but the developer’s not there yet, and the county’s not there yet," Taylor explained. "I've been doing this for 20 years ... and this is the most complex (project) I've been involved in."

To address the environmental concerns with the project, particularly caused by the landfill, Hertzberg said the development team has been "going through their review so they can appropriately analyze and prepare ... a submittal for approval of activities on the site."

Hertzberg added that the development team is working on a more specific site plan that will address the different requirements from the Department of Natural Resources, county and other entities.

"The site plan that I believe we’ll see on March 6 will be much closer to what we will expect to see come out of the ground," Hertzberg said.

The committee of the whole meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall, 9229 W. Loomis Road.

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