MOUNT HOREB — A visit here inevitably involves a roundabout.
There are routes to avoid the village’s five circular intersection-control structures but, for most, a trip through a roundabout has become commonplace in the 11 years since the first was built near the Kwik Trip at highways 78, 92 and Business 151. Four more were added in 2006 on the village’s east side.
Only now, after years of inactivity and an economic downturn, there are growing reasons to not just go through the intersections along Springdale Street but to veer off.
Maybe it’s onto Lillehammer Lane for an overnight at the GrandStay Hotel & Suites or to drop the kids off at Academy of Little Vikings 4K and Childcare. A trip onto Telemark Parkway can lead to a baseball game or soccer match at Summer Frolic Sunrise Park or to buy groceries at Miller & Sons Supermarket. Take South Brookwood Drive, and there’s Farmers Savings Bank and Upland Hills Health Clinic.
But development along the once rural corridor is likely far from over.
In the next five years, officials here believe many more reasons will exist to navigate the roundabouts as more businesses discover the area, the village’s population grows and aging Epic Systems Corp. workers in nearby Verona transition out of Downtown Madison apartments and into homes with three bedrooms, two-car garages and yards that need mowing.
Brad Murphy, Mount Horeb Economic Development Corp. executive director, is even more optimistic. He believes the corridor could be built out in three to four years.
“The reason I say that is that I believe we will have some people snap that up because they can see the opportunity,” Murphy said. “It’s very visible, and there’s a lot of traffic coming down from Main Street. As you get more businesses in there ... you’re going to have more and more people going through there and using the services.”
In 2005, voters approved by a 241-213 vote spending $1.25 million to help pay for a $3.5 million project to rebuild about 1,600 feet of what is now Springdale Street. The project, about two-thirds of which was funded through a tax incremental financing district, included the addition of four roundabouts that eliminated the need for traffic signals and reduced the severity of crashes.
The project also expanded much of the roadway to four lanes along farmland that officials said was ripe for development. The roadway and a Farmers Savings Bank opened in 2006, just as the economy began to slip into a recession.
But in 2009, Verona grocer Miller & Sons bought Kalscheur’s Fine Foods. In 2013, a 44,000-square-foot store — which was 18,000 square feet larger than Miller & Son’s previous building to the west — was built. The project set off a development spurt that included retail, service and restaurant businesses in the same parking lot as the new grocery building. Meanwhile, World of Variety spent $1 million to expand its store into Miller & Son’s former space.
One of the biggest projects along the corridor, a $6.4-million, 61-room GrandStay Hotel & Suites, opened in May. The hotel is owned by 38 investors, and there are plans for a casual restaurant or bar and grill with room for banquets and meeting rooms next to the hotel.
“It’s the right place and the right time,” said Peggy Zalucha, one of the lead hotel investors and an EDC member. “We just know this is the right thing for this town at this time. We just care about where we live and we want to see it be the best community it can be. I’m sure some exciting things are going to happen in the next four to five years.”
One business that has just opened near the hotel is guaranteed to drive traffic to the area during the work week, which could help encourage more business growth. Academy of Little Vikings, founded in 2013, was licensed to care for 45 children, 3 years old and above, and had been renting space in Immanuel Lutheran Church. This month, the academy moved into a new $1.5 million, 7,500-square-foot facility licensed for 98 children, including those as young as 6 weeks. The building, at 1991 Commerce Drive, has eight classrooms, a kitchen and a multipurpose room. It’s also near Highway 18-151, making it convenient for commuters headed to Epic in Verona, Lands’ End in Dodgeville and to Madison.
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“The entrepreneurial spirit has kind of started to catch on and people are starting to think about how to reach out and make Mount Horeb an even more attractive place to vacation or to live,” said Brenda Fritz, who along with her husband, Todd Fritz, used retirement savings to seed their new facility. “What we’re seeing now in Mount Horeb is the Epic demographic getting a little bit older and getting into childbearing years. I see them coming out to the burbs now and starting families.”
Some of those families could be just around the corner from the academy.
Developer John DeWitt’s North Cape Commons development calls for not only more commercial development but a mix of single-family homes, duplexes and multifamily units.
When he started the project in 2004, he had 34 acres of commercial land, 124 single-family lots, 20 duplex lots and space for a 60-unit apartment building. The development now has 25 acres of commercial land available, 76 single-family lots remaining along with seven duplex lots and land for the apartment building.
Residential land sales have been slow for DeWitt’s development since the recession, but he remains confident in the project’s location and the balance of commercial and residential property.
“The development of that commercial property will only accelerate when the residential grows because they’re looking for rooftops,” DeWitt said. “As this market gets heated up, it’s only going to help the development of those commercial properties.”
The corridor also includes potential for development on the north side of Springdale Street while the future of the Norsk Golf Club & Bowl located on the south side and across the street from the Culver’s remains unclear.
The owners of the 51-acre, nine-hole public course built in 1927 have put the property up for sale and are asking the Village Board to approve rezoning the property so it can be developed for housing and businesses. Previous rezoning attempts failed in 1995 and 2009, but if it is approved, more land would be available for potential growth.
DeWitt said his North Cape Commons can be attractive for not only new businesses coming to the community but for established entities that don’t require a spot in the village’s downtown such as health care, insurance and law businesses.
In the past year, Prairie Bookshop, Trillium Natural Foods Co-op and Sole Sapori, an Italian restaurant, have closed but there have been the additions of a Duluth Trading Co. retail outlet, a tea house and Hop’s House Eatery & Pub. Fisher King Winery opened in a former car dealership in 2011, while Schubert’s Downtown Restaurant and the Grumpy Troll Brew Pub continue to draw not only locals but day trippers from Madison and tourists passing through the area.
Another popular downtown spot is Sjölinds Chocolate House, 219 E. Main St. Founded in 2006 by Tracy and Chris Thompson, the couple thought they would have a small shop with limited hours and a small menu that featured their bean-to-bar chocolate.
Instead, they’ve grown. In 2012, they bought, remodeled and expanded their building to create more seating.
They’re now building a $700,000 chocolate production facility with a small coffee shop and drive-through at the same intersection that holds the newly built day care and hotel on the village’s east side.
In five years, Tracy Thompson, 55, believes the corridor will be booming and could include more local food producers using locally grown vegetables, meats and dairy products.
“It’s just a really fertile area for that,” Thompson said. “We’re willing to take the risk, and I can’t imagine we’re unique.”