Beaver Dam on track to buy old dry cleaners downtown for parking lot

October 11, 2018

The city of Beaver Dam plans to buy a vacant downtown building to make way for a new city parking lot.

With approval from the Common Council on Monday, the city will use about $87,000 in downtown revitalization funds to buy the property at 111 W. Maple Ave., which most recently housed a dry cleaning business. The plan is to demolish the building and lay down asphalt for a parking lot that would serve downtown businesses and the new location for the Beaver Dam Area Community Theatre, which is due to open in late December.

“That piece is really exciting, right next door to the Community Theatre, not only an asset then to the theater but then all the businesses along Front Street that have some constraint with parking along the front,” said Beaver Dam Mayor Becky Glewen.

Glewen said turning the land into a parking lot was the only realistic future for the property, given environmental contamination concerns. Earlier this year, the Common Council approved $580,000 in resident-funded borrowing to fund efforts to give downtown a makeover, which includes the new trees, changes to the alleyway to American Bank Square, and soon-to-be benches.

“That’s a property that just has to be torn down and capped. We have no desire to redevelop it or anything,” Glewen said. “There would be some issues with an outside owner purchasing that because of contamination that might be there, but for a municipality to purchase it, it is OK to do that and cap it and use it for parking.”

Some of the downtown revitalization money was set aside to purchase and tear down buildings downtown to clear a path to the new theater. The second part of the plan, to buy a building on Front Street and tear it down, is still under discussion.

“We’re having a lot of other discussions right now before we move forward on anything else,” Glewen said. “We’re taking a lot of other things into consideration, so there’s a lot of discussions that have to happen before we move forward on something else.”

The city did make an offer for the property at 120 Front St., where there used to be a karate studio, but the owner, real estate agent Mike Wissell, did not accept. Tekla Wlodarczyk Nunez and Cari Villarreal will instead be opening a consignment store there at the end of the month. Wissell’s firm bought the property over the summer for $52,000.

Beaver Dam native Virgil Lauth purchased the business that became Beaver Cleaners and Launderers in 1960. Before his death in 2016 at age 90, he was in discussions with the city to donate the property. The family’s trust has now opted to sell the property to the city.

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