After nearly three years of sitting vacant, the Main and Bristol intersection natural gas explosion site in downtown Sun Prairie has a developer eyeing the property for apartments, shops and restaurants.
Plover-based Lokre Companies founder and president Rolly Lokre confirmed this week that he has accepted offers for the properties and is having “favorable” discussions with city officials to move a project forward.
Lokre said he hasn’t submitted official plans to the city but said if approved, he would like to start phase 1 construction this fall. A second phase would dependent on acquiring Sun Prairie Utilities property, once operations move to the new Linnerud Drive location.
With its high-profile spot, the development of the Main and Bristol Street site could usher in a new renaissance for downtown Sun Prairie — signaling a recovery from the explosion and the recent economic hit of COVID-19 on the retail and restaurant industry.
Lokre said he understands the importance the Bristol and Main Street intersection site is to the Sun Prairie community.
“We believe this is the right project for this site,” Lokre said. “We will work with the city and the community to try to fill that void.”
He said phase 2 of the project will require the SPU property.
SPU Utilities Manager Rick Wicklund said the Utilities Commission is expected to discuss the issue in a closed session next week.
The city’s Sun Prairie Stronger plan, created by the Lakota Group, will guide redevelopment at the July 10, 2018 explosion site that destroyed the Barr House Tavern, the Watertower Chop House, Glass Nickel Pizza, the Professional Building and a private home.
City officials expect redevelopment — that would incorporate the new Bank of Sun Prairie Stadium at Ashley Field — to reshape downtown Sun Prairie’s future, with as much impact as the Cannery Square redevelopment on the blighted industrial site did in the early 2000s.
Lokre said the company has been looking for property in Sun Prairie for years and the Main and Bristol Street location checks off all the boxes for the desired spot: an intersection, in a small downtown area with historic appeal.
Community Development Director Scott Kugler confirmed that city officials were in discussion with an interested party for redevelopment at the intersection.
Kugler said the Sun Prairie Stronger Plan focuses on developing the north and south corner of the intersection first but it would be up to developers to make that happen, with the city guiding the process through zoning and TIF incentives.
“We knew in the long run, something would happen and that it would not be immediate,” Kugler said. “It’s important that it’s the right project.”
The Sun Prairie Stronger mixed-use plan includes 4-5 story buildings with apartments, shops and restaurants on the ground floor, urban green space.
Lane Street would be turned into a “Festival Street” that could be closed to traffic for special events and create a pedestrian connection from the new Bank of Sun Prairie Stadium at Ashley Field to downtown Sun Prairie.
The Sun Prairie Area School District has purchased several properties adjacent to Ashley Field with the intent to partner with the city on its Sun Prairie Stronger redevelopment plan.
Even with the focus on the Main and Bristol intersection, other development is happening in downtown Sun Prairie.
Glass Nickel Pizza owner Adam Bougie broke ground on a new downtown spot this week on Main and Vine.
His business was destroyed in the July 10, 2018 gas explosion and fire.
Bougie is also one of the property owners who have accepted Lokre offers for his Main and Bristol intersection site. Bougie said Lokre has the financial wherewithal to create a plan to revitalize that area of downtown and that’s why he accepted the offer.
Bougie is also moving ahead with the Bougie Building in the east downtown area, which will include his new Glass Nickel restaurant.
Bougie recently received a $225,000 Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation Community Development Investment grant to help him with the increased lumber costs on the project.