NEW BERLIN — Joe Sanfelippo, state representative and New Berlin resident, and his family have offered to provide a shelter to be a permanent home for the New Berlin Farmers Market and land to be a plaza in the New Berlin City Center.
Both would be on the southeast corner of National Avenue and Coffee Road (that turns into Michelle Witmer Drive when it enters the city center.
"My family has been in business in the community for four generations. The community has been good to us and we want to give back," Sanfelippo said. His grandfather came to America from Sicily at the age of 12 and sold fruits and vegetables from a horse-drawn wagon in the Third Ward, he said.
"We came from humble beginnings and now the fourth generation is able to work in the family business," Sanfelippo said.
He didn't want to go into details, but confirmed that the shelter that would be used by the farmers market in the warmer months and by the Sanfelippo family to sell Christmas trees would cost more than $100,000.
The New Berlin Plan Commission was to meet today, April 13, to vote on the twin proposals of the farmers market plan and a proposal to build a PDQ gas station/convenience store just west of the market property.
Concerns have been raised about both projects.
There are worries as to whether enough parking would be available for the market. Also, a plan to add parking has raised safety concerns. That is because farmers market patrons using the additional parking would have to cross a future interior access road to get to the market.
Gas station neighbors, especially those across National Avenue, have raised concerns about having a gas station so close to their homes and that it might operate 24 hours. They also said the traffic the station could add would make it even more dangerous to turn left onto National from Acredale Road.
The gas station/convenience store was seen as a good fit for the parcel because it would not take up the entire Sanfelippo tract at 15055 W. National Ave. Enough land would be left over for the farmers market and for the Sanfelippo family to continue to sell Christmas trees.
The plan is to sell land at the corner to PDQ.
The Sanfelippo family would keep the rest of the property to the east along National Avenue. That land with a shelter and pergola would be a new home for the farmers market. The Sanfelippo family also could keep selling Christmas trees plus sod and plants and garden-related merchandise. Those kinds of offerings would fit well with the farmers market merchandise, he said.
Sanfelippo would then donate the entire southern section of the tract to the city of New Berlin.
Mayor Dave Ament said the city would like to create a plaza on the western part of that donated land directly south of the proposed PDQ. The plaza would have trees, a walkway and benches, he said.
The eastern part of the donated land could be used for additional farmers market parking or even to provide room for additional vendors as the market grows, he said.
However, there is a safety problem, said Michael Skupien who runs the farmers market for the New Berlin Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau. Market patrons would have to cross an interior road to be built between the northern section with the PDQ and the farmers market and the southern donated portion with a future plaza and additional farmers market parking. That road that would connect the tract to the rest of the city center presents a potential safety hazard to farmers market patrons, he said.
Ament doesn't see it that way.
"No matter where you go, there is shared parking in the city center," he said, meaning that people walk through traffic lanes to get to where they are going.
"It's supposed to be pedestrian-friendly," he said of the city center. "We have a high concentration of residential which is what we are trying to connect up. We're trying to encourage walking."
The city center plan could even be safer than what the market has now, where patrons have to park on the street and walk in, he said.
Ament was upbeat on the project.
"At no cost to the city or to the chamber, they can move the farmers market to the city center, hopefully in 2018," he said. The farmers market would be able to use the Sanfelippo land for free.
Currently, the farmers market sets up Saturday mornings during warmer weather in the parking lot of the New Berlin police station. City and chamber officials have long wanted the market to be in the New Berlin City Center.
Beyond that, Ament applauded the plan on a major city center entrance for its potential impact on the rest of the city center and for its cohesiveness.
The PDQ would have a clock tower that would help give the center a visual identity, he said.
Tower at entrance
The tower would proclaim the corner as the entrance to the New Berlin City Center and the face of the clock would have the city logo on it, he said.
"I've been pushing for a clock tower for years," Ament said. "We need to give the city center an identity. they designed that building to do that."
The PDQ with a clock tower at a major entrance to the city center could have an impact for the whole city center, Ament said.
"It should bring more attention to the whole city center," he said. It also might spur interest in the empty Walmart building and facade improvements for the Pick 'n Save store in the center, he said.
Further, the current plan is cohesive, he said.
"We did not want it split up piece by piece. We wanted it p[lanned out," he said. The city center needed a plan for that main corner, he said. The focus will not be a gas station, either, he said. The pumps are set back and would not be visible from National Avenue, he said. What drivers would see is a brick building with the clock tower.