Plan commission to discuss conditional use permit for redevelopment proposal

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Progress continues toward the redevelopment of the Waukesha County Museum.

The Waukesha Plan Commission is expected to discuss a conditional-use permit for the project – which would transform portions of the museum, at 101 W. Main St. and housed in the former county courthouse, jail and connector building, into high-end apartments – at its March 22 meeting.

Developer Alan Huelsman said last month that construction on the project could begin this summer if all goes according to plan.

The $5 million project is being funded in part with historic preservation tax credits. Hueslman's application for those credits is expected to be approved in April, he said.

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Plans for the project, which have been discussed in some fashion for more than two years, recently underwent a significant revision after Huelsman hired a new architect. Those revised plans now call for 27 apartments – down from 32 – to be built on the second and third floors of the museum along with four office suites, ranging in size from about 1,100 to 1,400 square feet, on the second floor of the old courthouse.

A banquet hall in an old courtroom on the third floor is also planned.

The museum's exhibits, galleries, education and research centers and offices will be situated on the first floor, according to planning documents.

Saving history

A key component of the proposal has been the preservation of the museum, which in recent years fell on hard times and was in danger of shuttering.

ARCHIVES: Could the Waukesha County Museum soon be history?

But under Huelsman's concept, the museum would enter into a long-term lease agreement with Historic Prairieview Limited – which Huelsman owns – to remain in the building. His team would be responsible for the building's expenses and maintenance, which in the past rocked the museum's finances due to the age of the courthouse and former county jail, which were both constructed in the late 19th century. The connector building between the two was constructed a few decades later.

Dennis Ceretta, the museum's executive director, said last month that if construction on the project proceeds according to plan the museum could fully reopen by the end of the year. The museum has been operating on limited weekend hours since August.

The plan commission meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

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