Developer sees potential on east side

Appleton firm buys Highway 22 frontage

New business development could be coming soon to a high-profile location across from the drive-in movie theater on Shawano’s east side.

Romenesko Developments Inc., based in Appleton, has purchased the former North Country Homes headquarters property with hopes of drawing new commercial activity there.

“We see the potential,” company president Carl Romenesko said.

The developer paid $325,000 to purchase 8 acres of largely vacant real estate at 1501 E. Green Bay St., directly across the road from the Shawano Cinema indoor and outdoor movie theater.

For about 30 years, starting in the early 1970s, the site was headquarters for North Country Homes, a manufactured home dealership that operated offices and displayed model homes there.

North Country Homes relocated to Bonduel in 2002 and then listed the Shawano property for sale.

Bart Huntington, president of North Country Homes, said he is pleased to have the real estate sold and to see the possibility of new development at the site.

“The property is a nice piece of property,” he said. “It just didn’t suit our needs any more.”

The former corporate office is leased to a tree-service contractor, while other scattered facilities are used for storage, surrounded by vacant land. Situated along state Highway 22, it is among the first places that visitors see arriving in Shawano from the east.

Neighbors expressed excitement that a new owner is planning to redevelop the property and bring new business growth to the city’s east side.

Todd Senzig of nearby Senzig’s Fine Home Furnishings said he would hope for a Kohl’s Department Store or something similar. Senzig said he would not even mind seeing a competing furniture outlet rather than the site’s current vacancy and inactivity.

“This town needs reasons to come to it,” he said. “I think it would be fantastic to bring someone in.”

Ben Symes, a real estate broker marketing a vacant commercial site not far away, agreed that redevelopment of the North Country Homes property would be encouraging for the surrounding area.

“Any development and growth is good — that’s for sure,” Symes said.

Real estate records at the Shawano County Courthouse indicate that Romenesko Developments completed its purchase of the property in July through an Appleton firm called CDR 1 LLC.

Founded in 1970, Romenesko Developments has completed many residential and commercial building projects throughout Northeastern Wisconsin. The company has more than 400,000 combined square feet of offices, warehouses and other commercial space under lease to tenants throughout the region.

Romenesko said he envisions several possibilities for the Shawano site, including automobile sales, camper sales or perhaps a “business center” with multiple buildings and tenants. Referring to the nearby Tractor Supply Co. retail store, he said other national chains could be persuaded to locate in the area.

“There must be others,” he said.

Romenesko, who already has begun grooming the site, said he has talked with city leaders about development assistance. He hopes to make progress landing tenants and getting the project going within four to six months.

Referring to site’s far-reaching potential, he said: “We have the knowledge and the resources and the ability to do pretty much whatever we want.”