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FRANKLIN - The Ballpark Commons development off 76th Street and Rawson Avenue is beginning to develop into more finite plans with a smaller, indoor sports training complex, year-round golf facility, and plaza area with shopping, dining, and space for offices.

Developer Mike Zimmerman presented an update on the project to the city at a committee of the whole meeting Monday, March 6, highlighting the progress the development team has made.

Much of this progress has been made on the environmental front, given that the site is proposed on a historic landfill. And as more has been discovered about the land itself, design plans have been formed accordingly.

For example, the large outdoor baseball stadium has been moved slightly south to move farther from the limits of waste of the former landfill. According to architect Joseph Lee, the goal is to move anything that will have foundation work out of the limits of waste area.

Lee said the potential 4,000-seat stadium will be the "crown jewel of the development" and serve as the "identity" of the Ballpark Commons.

Sports plaza

South of the stadium, the plan is to have a space which Lee refers to as a "sports retail node." The plaza-like area will have the year-round golf facility to the north as well as a business space, a restaurant space, and a possible sports retail space, like a golf pro shop.

Zimmerman also noted that development officials have had conversations with a brewpub for a spot next to the stadium.

"We're not designing this in a vacuum," Zimmerman said. "It's designed around tenants who would like to come here."

Though Zimmerman alluded to possible tenants in the space, he said he is not yet able to identify them due to the confidentiality of business agreements.

Modern feel

In addition, farther north on the pedestrian parkway will be additional buildings with commercial property on the first floor – such as retail and dining – and multi-family housing above, previously referred to as the "sports village."

These buildings will all be designed with a modern industrial feel using quality materials and will be priced at market rates.

The apartments south of Rawson will also reflect this modern aesthetic, Lee said, with the six three-story buildings utilizing flat roofs and a mix of materials, including masonry and cement board siding in a panel system.

The buildings will center around a common green space to give a "quad feel, not just a sea of parking," Lee said.

Breaking ground

The plan is still to break ground on the project in the summer. According to Richard Lincoln, senior vice president of the Mandel Group consulting firm, the first buildings to get a shovel in the ground will be the stadium, indoor sports complex, office building, and golf facility.

With possible tenants for the commercial spaces lined up, Zimmerman said development officials hope to move forward quickly, in the hope to be finished with the space in time for businesses whose leases may be up soon.

"We're in this fortunate and vulnerable position," Zimmerman described. "The architecture and planning teams are hard at work."

Environmental work 

Along with the architecture and planning work, significant progress has been made in dealing with the environmental issues on the site.

David Scherzer, president of the Sigma Group which specializes in surface investigation of contaminated sites and civil engineering, presented the various environmental concerns at the meeting and noted how they are looking to address those concerns as the Ballpark Commons is constructed.

Two major concerns with the project include methane gas produced by the leftover debris under the ground's surface and the effect on groundwater.

Methane control

Concerning methane control, Scherzer said that the ground is currently "capped" by anywhere from four to 10 feet of engineered fill. If the cap were to be disturbed, as it would if construction began in the area, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources requires that a cap modification plan be developed, in which the cap would be restored to something just as adequate or more effective than the previous cap.

In addition, the amount of methane gas produced will have to be monitored as development occurs and once the structures are built. Scherzer said the Ballpark Commons buildings will have methane mitigation systems to prevent the gas migrating to the buildings, which will also have alarms connected to monitoring systems.

Currently, the site has a methane mitigation system in place which "sucks all the air or the methane around the site and is lit with a flare to burn off the methane," Scherzer said. This system, now more than 20 years old, will be redesigned, as well, he added.

Scherzer said that systems like these are in use throughout Wisconsin, because it is not uncommon to build on historic landfill sites. He noted that even Miller Park is built on a former landfill site.

Groundwater impact 

In response to potential groundwater issues, Scherzer explained that the groundwater seems to flow away from the residential areas near the site.

He also noted that most residences that use a well in the area are taking water from an aquifer approximately 300 feet below the earth's surface, deep enough to not be affected by anything occurring higher in the ground.

Scherzer said they will continue to investigate these environmental issues as they fulfill various DNR requirements.

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