Hooper Corp. is eyeing completion of its new business park in the Village of DeForest by the end of 2021.
Company officials gave an update on the project to the village board’s committee of the whole on Tuesday, Nov. 19, following purchase of the land at the end of October. Christopher Gosch, a principal of Populance and a consultant for the project, said final acquisition of the property was a “great relief” for Hooper Corp.
Setting a firm date for finishing the work in its entirety doesn’t make sense for Hooper.
“It’s kind of like building your own house,” said Hooper President Steve Lindley. “You get one chance to do this right. So, we’d rather not set arbitrary deadlines for ourselves.”
Gosch said the land purchase “was not without a few headaches and migraines.” The transaction did change slightly from the original concept, as some single-family properties were added.
“It did not affect the project as a whole, but it changed the transaction a little bit,” said Gosch.
A full-service electric power and mechanical contractor, Hooper has been based in Madison since 1913. The company is planning to move its headquarters to DeForest, along with its manufacturing and production facilities, and make its new home on a vacant 50-acre parcel accessible from Hwy. 19.
Gosch said the plat will be submitted to the village’s plan commission and then to the village board. More work is needed regarding an environmental corridor and comprehensive plan amendments, plus a resubmittal for zoning changes – all of which is expected to take place in December and January.
Previously, company officials said they wanted to get the lower portion of the property zoned O-R, for office research, light industrial and business. Also, they are hoping to get the upper portion zoned RN-2A, for single-family residential.
Hooper has also committed to making extensive public infrastructure improvements, such as a north-south road, installing sanitary sewer and installing a water loop. More improvements are planned for the nearby intersection of Hwy. 19, as stoplights and turn lanes will be added. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is reviewing a traffic study related to the project.
“There is a strong demand to get traffic signals in there immediately as part of the project,” said Gosch, who added that initial plans called for them to be installed 10 to 15 years down the road.
Originally, Hooper’s idea was to do the infrastructure work in multiple phases, but they informed DeForest trustees last week that it’ll be completed in one phase. These infrastructure improvements are a focus for the company right now, while Hooper works with CARPC (the Capitol Area Regional Planning Commission) and Vierbicher and Associates on stormwater issues.
Gosch also talked about how Hooper is working with village officials on stormwater basins and infiltration basins and a pedestrian bike trail for the property.
A bigger concern is parking. Hooper has proposed an underground parking facility for its headquarters, located in the northwest corner of the property. It’s a sloping site, said Gosch, who added that Hooper has expressed a desire not to have a “sea of asphalt” there.
Officials are studying the environmental impact of underground parking. Stormwater issues, as well as rain harvesting roof tops and geothermal cooling, denser native plantings and hopes of integrating the facility with the landscape are all considerations for Hooper.
Different soils have caused Hooper to shift several of infiltration and stormwater ponds. Also, a tree study is underway.
“Again, we’re trying to be sensitive and making sure that what’s on site that should stay does stay,” said Gosch.
Trustee Jeff Miller thanks Hooper for its perseverance with the land sale and for its sensitivity to environmental concerns.
“I do understand the initial cost to Hooper, but I think they’ll make the location just beautiful when it’s completed,” said Miller.
Gosch said that after a series of plan submittals to the village in December and January, Hooper will start moving dirt once everything is recorded around mid-March. Then, Hooper will start with the public infrastructure work. When water and fire hydrants are brought in, Hooper will begin construction of buildings. He said foundations should be in around mid-summer.
Lindsay said he thinks it’ll be a pretty attractive place to be. The company is already talking about what to do with the residential piece at the top of the property, which includes seven lots.
“Once you have first tenant in there on the corner, and the street light in and the road in, it becomes more attractive, more marketable at that point,” said Lindsay. “It’s easier to visualize.”
Trustee Jason Kramar added, “The economy is strong. It’s all systems go.”