Jeramey Jannene

Pabst Farms Now Encouraging Retail and Industrial Sprawl

By - Jun 18th, 2008 02:48 pm
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Oconomowoc-based Pabst Farms, yet another development named after what the bulldozers destroy, is not limiting itself to simply encouraging commercial and residential sprawl anymore. In a move that I can only interpret as desperation (in the face of the growing trend of industrial firms relocating to the Menomonee Valley), Pabst Farms developers Developers Diversified Realty Corp of Cleveland is set to begin the construction on the first of three speculative industrial buildings. The only tenant so-far (and you think they would be rumoring them if there were others) is Fastenal Corp building a distribution that will occupy almost 25% of a 30,000 square-feet building.

Speculative industrial buildings being built in what is supposed to be a “high-end” mixed-use development? The developers behind Pabst Farms are looking like they simply wish to make a quick buck with no-thought to the long-term viability of the neighborhood with more buildings surrounded by parking lots.

Logically, pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use neighborhood design is extremely efficient because it requires fewer roads and parking stalls, requires residents to use less gas, leaves more true “green space” (untouched forests and fields, not mowed grass), and allows space to be more rapidly and creatively redeveloped in the wake of a business closing because of its proximity to other businesses and people (it’s easier to open a restaurant on a busy street, etc). It’s good for business and good for residents.

Pabst Farms seems to wish to fight this logic, take what used to be a space of large undeveloped land, claim…

Our philosophy is to build to the land, not on the land, carrying on the spirit of conservation begun by Fred Pabst back in 1906″

… and then build parking-lot-centric developments. To give you an idea of their thinking, examine this photo of their “Commerce Centre.” Judging by the developments in place already, the area has yet to become a commerce center and is simply a distribution center. A distribution center gives you images of 18-wheelers rolling in-and-out at all hours of the day though, and that’s certainly not as attractive as the wealth-generation implied by the word “commerce.”

Pabst Farms Commerce Center

Now picture three more buildings that will be smaller (in square-footage), but similar to the Roundy’s Distribution Center. Even more attractive, right?

Is this your vision of high-end? Certainly not mine.

That’s the industrial space. How about the commercial development?

Pabst Farms Retail

Again, clearly designed around the automobile, not conservation.

The Staybridge Suites that will begin construction shortly at Pabst Farms will certainly more closely resemble the Hilton Garden Inn pictured above, than it will the mixed-use, parking-lot-free (uses a hidden garage) Staybridge Suites nearing completion in downtown Milwaukee. Pabst Farms adds a parking lot, downtown Milwaukee builds over one, and hides one inside the building. Not to mention that long-term construction in the Park East area will further diminish the need for parking garages, while building parking lots only encourages more parking lots in the future.

Residential space? Largely the same story.

Again, all this is done under the name of conservation and high-end development.

Interestingly enough, as Pabst Farms positions itself as a new neighborhood on former farm/green space land, a similar “Neighborhood by Design” development is going on in downtown Milwaukee. The Mandel Group is developing The North End on what used to be an abandoned factory in downtown Milwaukee. The Mandel development will include condos, apartments, retail, and office space.

The difference between the two? The Pabst Farms development decreases the amount of green space and encourages driving through natural assets. The North End encourages public, pedestrian access to natural assets and actually increases the amount of green space. Not to mention extending the phenomenally successful Milwaukee Riverwalk yet further north.

Unlike the photos above, that show parking lot and after parking lot, The North End places buildings close together, and makes them multi-level. It also mixes uses within a building, instead of across main traffic arteries.

Thankfully for the Pabst Farms development, there is still time to turn things around. If the developers choose to do so, they can build a legitimate mixed-use community, instead of building sprawling, parking lot encircled buildings that are single-use and only next to buildings used for the same purpose.

There isn’t anything wrong with the idea of Pabst Farms on paper. It’s proposed as “the conveniences and amenities of an urban area in a breathtaking Lake Country setting. Pabst Farms offers a complete living experience by integrating residential, retail, and commercial environments into one thoughtfully developed master-planned community.” The unfortunate thing is that this isn’t how it’s being built to-date. Industrial, commercial, and residential land is separated, pedestrian access within even the different single-use areas is discouraged by using long, winding roads instead of short, interconnected streets that make pedestrian travel easy, and the beauty of Lake Country is turning into the beauty of grass yards.

Thanks to our friends at who asked for our input on the latest news at Pabst Farms. Here’s to hoping they get it right in the future.

Categories: Real Estate

4 thoughts on “Pabst Farms Now Encouraging Retail and Industrial Sprawl”

  1. Gabe says:

    But Dave: The city put up $24 Million in Tax Incremental Financing to _assure_ that Pabst Farms would be a high-quality development! With a ridiculous financing scheme like that, what could go wrong?

    Thanks for the article. This is exactly what we would have written at if we were literate.

  2. Jeramey Jannene says:

    @Gabe/Everyone I was actually the author of this post. We have a small glitch in our site that whenever I write something under the Admin account it shows up as the next author down on the list (which is Dave). Something with the display code in the template, have to investigate.

  3. Fonzie says:


    Thanks for a great post. I email your stuff to friends all the time, one of these day’s we’ll see a difference being made. To hell with Pabst “Farms”, I hope it’s not a lost cause, but man, it looks that way. Morons. The one good thing that can come from this is to raise as much awareness as possible about how crappy it is so, hopefully, a generation from now, people will have the common sense to learn from their mistakes.

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