cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner
The situation in Menomonee Falls concerning the Radisson Hotel on Main Street is an interesting issue to ponder. The Village had a significant ‘blight’ problem on Main Street from Pilgrim Road east to and beyond Hwy 41-45. A part of the anticipated solution was the elimination of the empty shell that had been a motel but that had stood empty and in partial rehabilitation for several years.
The Village, as the result, went to extraordinary lengths in creating a solution acceptable to the company that was developing the site. It didn’t just use its ability to bond on behalf of the developers, but instead used its own funds to supply the necessary funds. That amounted to just South of $18 Million and it got everything moving quickly again.
Whether or not directly tied to this activity, the Pilgrim Shopping Center became the subject of renovation and rebuilding as Wal-Mart began working on a smaller unit, largely stocking groceries, for the corner of Pilgrim and Main. The rest of that shopping center, down at the heels for some time, is also being brought back to life as the result.
The old Stolper site is being readied for future use and connecting roads are planned and waiting to be built. This entire area will take on a new and revitalized appearance and that is exactly what the Village desired.
The ‘fly in the ointment’ is the Hotel, and the problems surrounding it, the developers and at least one other property not in Menomonee Falls. That set of issues has resulted in the developers finding themselves, as a group and individually, facing various court proceedings and, according to reports, reneging on their agreement with the Village. The whole thing is now in court and the Village found itself having to advance funds to pay employees, to pay Radisson its amounts due to keep the name on the hotel, and to make the regular payment for accessing a national reservation system. This was supposedly caused by one or more owners ‘draining’ the checking account(s) of the Hotel.
So the Village is now in the hotel business, at least for the time-being, even though it never intended to be in that business. It apparently has something in the range of $14 Million still owed to it.
The Law of Unintended Consequences strikes again. As usual, that Law strikes when we least expect that to happen; but it strikes often enough that we should take some precautions to mitigate the effects.
Village Board members were unanimous on their support of this entire arrangement at the beginning. I presume it was engineered at least in part by Village Manager Mark Fitzgerald and had to have looked very good to the Village elders or they wouldn’t have been unanimous in their support.
There is another consequence involved, and frankly I hope it doesn’t occur because I think Mr. Fitzgerald has done a very good job for Menomonee Falls since he arrived from Woodland Park, CO.
The consequence is this: if there is H--- to pay, that price will be extracted from Mr. Fitzgerald in his role as Village Manager but it will not touch those who voted unanimously for the project unless the voters decide they want to fire the Board.
Fitzgerald has already accomplished much in a relatively short time. The Village is coming back to a vibrant life and businesses are either moving into or expanding in Menomonee Falls. Milwaukee recently took a run at the Kohl’s Corporation HQ and lost that fight to Menomonee Falls. Those things don’t happen without very effective day-to-day leaders handling the details.
I have spoken with other Village Managers or Village Administrators who tell me they are very thankful for not being in Fitzgerald’s shoes. He may also have had second thoughts as this all began imploding, but there is little choice now if the Village is to pull itself through the muck to get back to the high ground it previously occupied.
Given Fitzgerald’s history of success, I think he’ll get through this but that will only happen if the Menomonee Falls Village Board is able to ‘keep its powder dry’ and not take the path of least resistance. It needs a capable person to lead it, on a day-to-day basis, out of this mess. The best thing the Village Board can do, in my opinion, is to let Fitzgerald work this out. If he later proves this spot was too tough for him, they can always terminate his deal.
Unfortunately, too many politicians have very low tolerance for any danger to self, and would rather transfer the blame to another body or person. We’ll see what this Village Board is made of, too.
In the meantime, I hope the Radisson Hotel does well! It is a nice addition to this area and benefits Germantown, too.