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MEQUON - An ambitious proposal to build a brewery, restaurants, luxury apartments, single-family homes and retail spaces on 17 acres of blighted land was met with enthusiasm from the Mequon Plan Commission.

The project, known as Foxtown, would turn a $1 million parcel of land into an estimated $50 million town center community south of Mequon Road between the railroad tracks and Buntrock Avenue. 

The development team behind Foxtown met with the Mequon Plan Commission on Monday, Aug. 7 for an initial consultation. Mayor Dan Abendroth was among several commissioners to voice enthusiasm for the concept.

"I think this is a wonderful opportunity for the city," Abendroth said. "You are taking 17 acres of underutilized land and turning it into a $50 million development. It's exactly what the town center was designed for."

With the plan commission's encouragement, the developers will continue to work with the city's planning department to further refine the plans. In the next step of the approval process, the plan commission will consider the developer's concept plan and rezoning request. The Mequon Common Council will also hold public hearings in the future.

Beer-themed eatery would anchor

The anchor of Foxtown would be Foxtown Brewing Company, a beer-themed restaurant housed in a historic two-story building that was used as a brewery in the 1850s. The brewery would have lager cave tours, an outdoor beer garden and a public beer hall with a dance floor and banquet hall seating. 

Next door would be a new two-story building with a restaurant and retail space on the ground floor topped by another restaurant and commercial office space on the second floor. 

Closer to the railroad tracks, a brewery and beer hall called Fox Yard Brewery would be located in a renovated 13,000-square-foot building previously used as lumber barns and sheds. The microbrewery would feature beer hall seating, an outdoor beer garden pavilion and covered bike parking in restored lumber sheds.

Foxtown would also include two connected, three-story luxury apartment buildings containing 48 units, a clubhouse, a pool and underground parking. 

The plans also show two 33,000-square-foot buildings with retail and commercial space on the ground floor, commercial office space on the second floor and 11 extended-stay corporate residences on the third floor. 

An 11,000-square-foot, two-story retail building is also shown in the plans.

Apartment demand

Despite the number of new apartment projects that have been approved in the Mequon Town Center, there is still demand for luxury apartments in Mequon, said Peter Moegenburg, a real estate consultant hired by Foxtown developers to research market conditions. 

"Here we are in one development cycle seeing 156 units at Spur 16, 96 units at Foxtown and 81 units at Reserve coming to market essentially during the same development cycle," he said. "That may be shocking, but given the base demand in the market, there is still room for more multi-family development given the size of the community."

Moegenburg said he thinks people between the ages of 25 and 35 will be interested in the apartments. Only 63 percent of people in that age group own cars, he said, so they value walking or bicycling to places near their home. Similarly, a growing number of seniors are choosing to live in luxury apartments in walkable neighborhoods, he said.

Moegenburg said the residential component of the project is needed to sustain the restaurants and shops nearby.

"In order to continue to foster the vitality that Mequon yearns for, you need people that have disposable income within the trade area to sustain the commercial segment," he said. "It's residential that leads the commercial, not vice versa."

'Porch homes' questioned

At the Aug. 7 meeting, three plan commissioners expressed skepticism about the 23 single-family "porch homes" that would be built in a "pocket neighborhood" on the southeast corner of the site.

While the plan commissioners expressed confidence in Lakeside Development, the developer behind that portion of the project, they questioned the market demand for $500,000 homes built as close as four feet to each other.

"I’m not totally convinced they are going to fly off the shelf," said Commissioner Brian Parrish. "I think there is demand for this product, but I just don't know if it's at that price point. If you managed to get the price point down, I think they would be more attractive." 

The large porches in close proximity are meant to encourage a sense of community. Porch homes are often grouped around large courtyards or garden spaces. The design concept — which has been popular in Washington state, the Florida panhandle and other areas — was recently discussed by the Cedarburg Plan Commission.

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