Aurora Meets with WFB

Aurora, Famous Footwear, Redevelopment, Silver Spring, Talbots

I received an email today from Heather Nill, a Whitefish Bay resident who is interested in the re-development of Silver Spring.

Nill attended a meeting Thursday with Aurora, Silver Spring businesses, and several Whitefish Bay officials, and reports.  I've attained permission to reprint her email here in the blog, to give it a wider distribution.

One note before the email.. she writes "While everyone agrees it is CRUCIAL to fill that spot (Talbot's), most agree we would 'prefer' to have retail in that location, or how about that restaurant?  Some don't want Aurora at all (as communicated in today's NOW). "

My blog entry was reprinted in the Thursday paper-edition of the NorthShoreNOW, and I assume "Some don't want Aurora at all (as communicated in today's NOW)" is supposed to be a summary of my position.  -- That would not be correct.  I want Aurora, right after 14 other restaurants and retail stores open.  I want Aurora to open a clinic in a spot that isn't a prime candidate for a true home run, like the dream of a restaurant/tavern/retail complex would be.   (Pipe dream, perhaps.)  -- In the end, the Aurora Clinic is an office building that does not depend on "foot traffic" .. using prime foot-traffic property for a business that doesn't need foot traffic is an opportunity, wasted.

On with the email.  I'm always pleased to present different sides of public opinion, and Nill's balances my hesitation with Aurora, with significant optimism. 

As always, feel free to comment below.  This is a great step towards a more informed Village.

From: Heather Nill
Sent: Thursday, February 21, 2008 5:27 PM
Subject: Request for your input on Silver Spring initiatives


As you have read and heard, Aurora is interested in the Talbot's and Warehouse Shoes locale for a new facility.  This leaves many residents scratching their heads...
While everyone agrees it is CRUCIAL to fill that spot, most agree we would "prefer" to have retail in that location, or how about that restaurant?  Some don't want Aurora at all (as communicated in today's NOW). 
The reality is that many proposals and businesses have been presented and time and time again, things were stopped either by residents or by the village. Or simply, because it didn't make sense.

Today, Aurora hosted a business owner and Silver Spring property owner reception at Johnson Bank, which was extremely well attended.  While everyone was very engaged in conversation, two large property owners provided some interesting insight. One being Boris Gokhman with New Land and the other, Robert Schmidt III with Boulder Venture and owner of the Talbots/Warehouse Shoes spot.

Boris expressed that in his experience of commercial property ownership and development, a medical facility provides a wonderful anchor for a community due to the increase in foot traffic for other area businesses and the dollars spent in the renovation of the building inside and out. Another plus is they are a strong tenant and resident for the community in which they belong.
Robert had another interesting perspective: having a medical site, especially in the economy environment we are in, is truly "recession-proof".  In addition, Aurora would be signing a 15 year lease and also spend at least $1 Million in renovating the exterior of the building as well as provide beautiful landscaping.  
I had coffee with the two representatives who are working on the behalf of the Aurora initiative today.  My first comment was "Can you put a restaurant in part of the location?"  Unfortunately, the footprint of the building does not allow for this.  Their vision is having a beautiful Aurora facility that would house approximately 16 physicians, ob/gyn, Pediatrics and a specialist.
What it will NOT house is a pharmacy, which is wonderful news for Fitzgerald's across the street.  At a minimum, I would assume this facility would increase Fitzgerald's business unlike the threat of CVS.  For them, this could be great news, especially with the always present threat of Walgreens and CVS nearby.
What impacted me the most were three things:
1.  Aurora has a true conviction for commitment.  They have a strong belief to invest in our community and truly get involved. For example, Grafton now has Aurora as a main sponsor for one of their festivals. 
Their goal with this facility is to create an environment that breathes added life in to our community while helping the well being of their patients they see. 
They envision this building to exhibit Whitefish Bay historic nuances in order to blend in our deeply rooted community, and respects the importance of this location to everyone who visits, lives and shops in the area. 
While they can't promise what they will sponsor in Whitefish Bay, let's imagine the opportunity they could bring.  What if they were to invest in:  the holiday parade?  The pumpkin festival?  School programs?  Parks?  Wellness education programs?  The Civic Foundation?  The opportunities are endless.
Further, the large dollars they invest would mean they would be one of the strongest anchors on Silver Spring. They would pay for our strongest corner's facelift it so needs.  They would help bring foot traffic to other local businesses and shops and increase sales and revenue.  They would spend money in our community and invest in our community's presence.
2. They want to do this right.  Meaning, they postponed the community open forum, not because they don't want to hear from you, because they absolutely do.  In fact, they want me to pose the question to you as supporters of Silver Spring, how do you want to meet them?  They are happy to host a dinner at a local church or Pandl's in Bayside (only because we don't have a restaurant large enough to hold as many people as they expect).  Or, do you prefer to meet with them in a large room and just have a question and answer session? 
They want to meet with as many residents as they can. They want your feedback.  They want to know what you really expect from them as a potential new business in Whitefish Bay. 
In return, they would like you to give them an opportunity to give you the facts, clear up rumor, and tell their story.
Please know, that there is no ink on a dotted line anywhere. But they do know that it is critical in their efforts to have a positive support from village residents in order to be successful.
3.  Did you know that there are approximately 130 Aurora doctors and employees that live in Whitefish Bay?  3,000 Aurora/Advanced Healthcare that reside in our community?  
On another note...
BID for our Business District?:
BID stands for Business Improvement District.  The strongest example of the success that a BID can bring is the Third Ward. What was once a run-down part of Milwaukee now enjoys jazz festivals, high-end boutiques and art galleries, some of the most expensive condos in town and a vibrant community of many different walks of life.
Another example of a successful BID is Shorewood. 
With that said...
I attended last week's business association breakfast meeting and a serious discussion of forming a BID took place.  Like all important decisions, this one is just as complicated and delicate. 
In simple terms, Silver Spring commercial property owners would pay an additional amount toward the BID to help fund the initiatives. Historically, village funds also contribute to the BID.
The main goal of the BID would be to hire a full or part time recruiter for Silver Spring.  This qualified person would have a sales and real estate background and focus on recruiting THE RIGHT businesses to Silver Spring.  This position could expand to handle the events and become a liaison between business development and village government.  In addition, they would help with public relations and work with media outlets to promote our village.  This person will need to be well connected as well as dynamic.

This could help make Whitefish Bay become a destination for us as residents and surrounding neighborhoods.
While it sounds like an easy task to accomplish, it, too, needs support.
In order for the BID to be successful, the Village needs to start saying YES.  Business owners/property owners need to say YES.  Residents need to say YES.
Roger Siegel, member of the CDA and husband of Julie Siegel who is running for Village Trustee, very simply stated: "I encourage everyone to look forward. We need a symbiotic relationship between Village and Business District."
This weeks' Village Board Meeting...
* Passed a vote to fund $3,820 from the TIF to fix the clock on Silver Spring. In addition, $1,000 was donated anonymously and $3500 was donated from the Civic Foundation.
* Also passed was to award the $103,680 proposal to the engineer for Silver Spring streetscaping.
Don't forget!
Professor Harvey Rabinowitz and students of the UWM School of Architecture and Urban Planning will facilitate group discussion of building mass and scale and the strengths and development/redevelopment opportunities in the following areas of our business district: 
1. Zita's Block
2. Talbot's/Famous Footwear Block
3. Fitzgerald's/Associated Bank/Parking Lots/Fox Bay Property
4. Sendik's/Masonic Lodge
5. Winkie's/Parking Lot
Thursday, February 28th 
7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Whitefish Bay Public Library
Hosted by:
Whitefish Bay Business and Professional Association
Whitefish Bay Community Development Authority

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