Cooper Motor Site Again Eyed for Student Housing, Retail Site
Eyesore along north corridor could be home to a new development
By Brandi Makuski
A long-vacant building on the city’s north side finally has another interested developer.
Three years after the last proposal for developing the former Cooper Motors site, 544 Division St., yielded heavy objection and months of debate, a new plan could turn a few heads, according to city leaders.
Four new buildings are being proposed for a 4.2 acres on Division and Vincent streets. The conceptual plan calls for a four-story, 40-unit apartment complex aimed at housing UWSP students; a two-story office building; and two single-story buildings, one designed for retail space and another with a drive-thru with hopes of attracting a restaurant.
The last proposed development for the space occurred in 2012. At that time, hundreds attended city meetings in objection to a student housing development, many voicing concerns about pedestrian safety and increased traffic along the already-busy Division Street corridor. After months of heated debate, the proposal was denied by the City Council.
City leaders say this time around, developers addressed past concerns.
“There’s residential, and the potential for office on the west side and some commercial on Division Street with potential for restaurant,” said Kyle Kearns, an associate planner with the city. Kearns said there’s shared room for parking spaces- almost 220- throughout the site, and there’s a possibility of needing to vacate Vincent Street. A few kinks aside, he said he expects the plan to be received well by plan commissioners and the City Council.
“One of the big issues with past projects was, there were concerns of traffic on Division [Street], and that students would be mid-block crossing,” Kearns said. “That’s been addressed here, as the proposed residence is on the south side nearest a lighted intersection.”
While Kearns said his officer would like to see some increase density, the mixed uses “cater best” to the Division Street corridor.
The proposal is up for a conceptual project review at Tuesday’s City Plan Commission meeting, meaning the more thorough studies of parking and density have not yet occurred.
Kearns’ office expects the plan to come back before the commission for further review at a later date.