GREENDALE - Taxes and budgets? Sure, those are village issues, as always. But candidates for Greendale Village Board have other things on their minds, such as the village's commercial success.
The village board has two incumbents and a newcomer up for two seats in the April 4 election. Incumbents Donna Ouellette and Carl Genz along with challenger Jeff Birmingham discuss issues facing the village, including their opinion of the future of one of the Greendale's biggest attractions: Southridge Mall.
Some of the responses have been edited for length.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Greendale and how would you approach it?
Ouellette: The biggest challenge that I see is finding a way to continue to maintain the tax levy at a low level and maintain our excellent services while roads need repairing, health care costs keep increasing while retaining our quality employees.
Genz: I feel our biggest challenge is the same as it was when I was first elected in 2010 – how to do more with less? I'm proud to serve with this board of trustees along with the current Village President James (Jim) Birmingham, who all care about your tax dollars.
Birmingham: The biggest challenge today is keeping stores at Southridge Mall. The internet has made it more challenging. One of my ideas is holding some new event in Southridge Mall similar to the event we hold in the village center. This will encourage more people to visit and shop the mall.
Southridge Mall is one of the biggest features in Greendale. Recently, Kohl's announced its intent to leave along with a few other stores. However, other attractions are coming in such as the Explorium Brewpub and the new Marcus BistroPlex project. Are you worried about the mall's future, where do you see it going?
Ouellette: We have a lot of wonderful things going on around Southridge Mall. Simon Properties is one of the strongest retail mall owners in the country. While one door is closing, I’m confident another will open. We, as a village board, will assist wherever possible as we have in the past.
Genz: While some may look at the loss of Kohl's as a problem, I look at it as an opportunity. A year from now there could be eight to 10 new stores occupying that same space. Adding the Marcus Bistro Plex and Southridge luxury apartments will create an exciting mix.
Birmingham: I am worried about the challenges that stores have today, with Southridge being the largest mall in Wisconsin. We have had an above average number of stores stay in Greendale since 1970. Even though we have lost some stores, I feel we still have a bright future ahead.
Greendale has a balance of more modern commercial development, such as on 76th Street, as well as a more traditional feel, such as Broad Street. How do you balance the needs of both of these approaches in the village?
Ouellette: We are very lucky to have this diversity. Grandhaven is the largest owner of downtown properties and they do a wonderful job filling the historic district with appropriate stores. We’ve worked with Grandhaven on the arches to connect the two districts, which has increased traffic flow to our historic downtown.
Genz: Broad Street and the 76th Street corridor, as well as our Industrial Park, are separate and unique; each with their own distinct features, problems, and solutions. With that fact in mind, my decisions will always be based on what will work best for each individual area.
Birmingham: Greendale is very lucky to have a vibrant modern commercial development which is away from the homes, and then we have a linking of neighborhoods with locally owned businesses near our beautiful settings of flowers. The best thing to work is to combine the positives from each and make them better.
Address: 4920 Sussex Lane
Political history: Three years as Greendale trustee
Phone number: 414-421-8150
Address: 4504 Skylark Lane
Political history: Greendale trustee since 2010
Phone number: 414-421-4444
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Address: 5601 Bramble Court
Political history: Village trustee 2007-2010
Phone number: 414-630-2642