0011 0421 Econ Dev

For years, Manitowoc Mayor Justin Nickels sought to purchase 20-plus acres of undeveloped land on a peninsula owned by CN along the Manitowoc River. 

“What mayor wouldn’t want 20 acres of land along the riverfront? It bursts with opportunities,” he says. 

Nickels got his wish in 2018 and now its first developments are coming into focus. The newly named River Point District will feature a mix of residential, commercial and entertainment uses. It also will include plenty of public space and provide access to the river.

The district’s first development is a six-story apartment building with 81 market-rate units, which is being built by the Allie Family Companies. Called River North, the development will include apartments ranging in size from studios to three bedrooms. 

“River North will be Manitowoc’s first mid-rise apartment building, offering unique amenities, quality living arrangements and spectacular views to its residents,” says Alex Allie of Allie Family Companies, which owns several other multifamily housing developments along the lakeshore. “We’re very excited to bring a new living option to downtown Manitowoc that is unlike anything that currently exists.”

Construction is set to begin this summer on the $14.3 million project, with a fall 2022 completion date.  

“The River Point District is the largest development we’ve had in downtown in a generation,” Nickels says. “We have the whole site planned out and are working with restaurants that may want to be located along the riverfront.”

Nickels says the city is now focused on the infrastructure needed for phase 1 of the River Point District development. Site plans call for the eventual installation of a river walk, kayak launch and public space along the river. “We want to maintain public access to the river,” he says.

Adjacent to the new River Point District on Buffalo Street, PetSkull Brewing Co. received a $250,000 Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. grant to convert a 100-year-old, two-story building into a 10-barrel brewhouse and restaurant featuring Cajun and Creole fare. 

Co-owner Paul Hoffman currently operates the business on a part-time basis, but with the new, larger location, he’ll be dedicating all of his time to PetSkull.

“We knew that having such an abundant and loyal customer base would eventually demand a bigger location. But we couldn’t have imagined having the opportunity to move into such a magnificent and character-filled building,” he says.

The establishment will be able to accommodate 200 guests and feature exposed Cream City brick, wood floors and large wood beams.

Hoffman says the new location also will include a large west-facing patio that will accommodate another 100 guests. “With not knowing the future of crowds in this COVID-19 era, having a large outdoor patio was critical. Plus, it’s going to have an awesome view of the river and the new River Point District,” he says.

The new PetSkull location should open by mid-summer.

“It will be something unique, a destination business,” Nickels says.

Away from the river

Manitowoc’s industrial park is nearing its capacity as several businesses have announced expansion plans. 

Arizona-based AMMO Inc. has plans to build a 170,000-square-foot facility in the park, just west of Interstate 43. AMMO purchased Jagemann Stamping Co.’s brass casing division for $27 million last year and looks to grow its local presence. AMMO already has created 50 new jobs in the city, and with the new facility, up to 200 jobs could be created, Nickels says.

The Dramm Corp. recently purchased 15.62 acres in the industrial park and plans to build a 17,000-square-foot office and an 87,000-square-foot manufacturing space and greenhouse. The company, which makes consumer gardening and irrigation products and has a commercial division, would eventually like to add another 87,000 square feet of manufacturing space.

Redline Plastics, which opened a new 100,000-square-foot facility in 2020, is growing so much that it’s planning another expansion, says Nickels, adding the city is already planning its next industrial park, which will be across U.S. 151 from the current park.   

One of Manitowoc’s most popular attractions — the Mariners Trail — is also expanding. A $369,400 grant from Wisconsin’s Knowles-Nelson Stewardship program will connect the 7-mile trail along Lake Michigan to Lincoln Park, one of the city’s largest parks.

The link will run through the former Elks Club property, now known as the Bayshore Development. The city also set aside funds to help develop the trail system and to build a pedestrian bridge over the Little Manitowoc River. The bridge will connect the trail to the Lincoln Park Zoo and include kayak launches and fishing stations.

“The trail is a huge asset to our community, so using it to bring people more into the city versus just along the lake is definitely a win,” Nickels says.

Progress Lakeshore, the county’s economic development corporation, recently hired a new executive director after its previous leader, Peter Wills, took a job as Brillion city administrator. Jamie Zastrow, who previously led the Manitowoc County Homebuilders Association and Mainly Manitowoc, started her new role in late February.

“My first priority is getting out and meeting people from the municipalities to learn about their projects and how we can help them,” she says. “I’m ready to jump right in and continue the strong relationships already in place.”

Zastrow says her commitment to the community drove her to apply for the Progress Lakeshore position. “I love the community and I wanted to be in a leadership role to help the community’s economy to continue growing,” she says.