Village president talks business
No Walgreen's -- yet
There's work being done on the former Geneva Knoll's Tool building. (click for larger version)
October 05, 2011 | 08:36 AMGENOA CITY — Once Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said his state was open for business, Genoa City Village President John Wrzeszcz said he became optimistic.
"In fact, I e-mailed his office saying Genoa City is also open for business," Wrzeszcz said during a telephone interview Wednesday, Sept. 28.
He said the Village Board is pro-business, so much so that last year it adopted a tax incentive program, giving breaks to people who start new businesses in Genoa City.
However, the number of businesses either in the works or which have opened since then can be counted on one hand. What's worse is Wrzeszcz said it appears Walgreen's and another potentially large development won't materialize in Genoa City any time soon.
For a few years now, village officials have said the franchise had expressed an interest in locations near Highway 12.
"They were looking at two places," Wrzeszcz said. "One was on the west side of 12, north of South Road. The other was east of 12 on the south side of South Road."
According to Wrzeszcz, the problem was putting in a stoplight at the intersection of Highway 12 and South Road, which is about a quarter-mile north of the Wisconsin-Illinois state line.
Recently, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation conducted a traffic count at the intersection. The DOT determined there wasn't enough traffic to warrant a stoplight.
Apparently, no stoplight means no Walgreen's.
"They have it in their head they need a stoplight near their stores," Wrzeszcz said. "Otherwise, they won't build one. I guess whenever I (travel) around this country, it's true. Wherever there's a stoplight, there's a Walgreen's."
Another decision by the DOT also prompted a hold on a concept by contractor, builder and land owner David Laurine.
Wrzeszcz said shortly after he was elected in April, he approached Laurine with hopes he could move forward on his Genoa City Travel Center concept, which involves office spaces, an ice cream shop and a gas station. The Village Board expressed support of the concept, which Laurine presented again last month.
"He was going to build that on his property south of South Road, east of 12," Wrzeszcz said. "They met with the DOT so he could get an entrance off 12 into (the proposed development), but once again, the DOT said no."
Although it appears the DOT has dealt the village two crucial blows, Wrzeszcz held out hope for two proposals for assisted living developments. He said these concepts may even bring Walgreen's back to the village.
"I think Walgreen's is going to come sooner or later," Wrzeszcz said. "It's going to matter whether these projects move forward."
One of the proposals concerns the old Highway 12 rest area property.
Wrzeszcz said the idea was to build an assisted living/retirement community for veterans on this property owned by Bob Borst. Wrzeszcz said village officials haven't heard an update on this project, which has been in the works for the last few years.
"Right now, we don't know where that sits," he said. "The property hasn't been closed on yet."
There also is an assisted living facility project involving about 45 units on Elizabeth Lane, near the BP gas station, proposed by Dave Clark, of Angelus of Genoa City Senior Housing.
"That's going to be six-plus employees and they're going to have a 24-hour medical staff on duty," Wrzeszcz said. "That sounds like it's going to be a real nice place."
He said the board liked the concept, but Clark needs to rezone the property from manufacturing to business use. The village's Planning Commission and board may act on the request as early as this month.
Meanwhile, downtown Genoa City remains a ghost town. For every sign of progress, there's a for sale sign.
Yet to the south, directly over the state line, lies what appears to be a thriving business sector in Richmond, Ill.
"I just don't understand why someone doesn't want to put in a McDonald's here in Genoa City, or a Hardee's, or a Wendy's," Wrzeszcz said. "I don't know why Genoa City became a ghost town."
It wasn't always like this.
Back in the day, Genoa City used to have a movie theater, a pharmacy, a hardware store and other businesses. Some say once the state moved Highway 12 out of Genoa City, there was no reason for people to pass through the village's downtown area.
Wrzeszcz said that may have started the area's decline, but he asked how Richmond has the businesses Genoa City doesn't when his village has better, safer traffic patterns.
"How do you explain Richmond having a Subway, a McDonald's and a Taco Bell, all of which are difficult to get out of," Wrzeszcz said. "Why aren't they here? I guess I'm not smart enough to understand it."
But even motorists who don't travel through the downtown village can see the intent of Genoa City officials to bring in businesses.
The first billboard drivers will see when they enter Wisconsin heading north from Richmond on Highway 12 welcomes them to the community.
The sign also says what Wrzeszcz told Walker's office, that Genoa City is open for business.