JOHNSON CREEK -- Those who remember the intersection of Interstate 94 and state Highway 26 in the early 1990s with its lone truck stop, golf driving range and Gobbler motel, know the once-rustic junction has come a long way. It's almost unrecognizable compared to that sketchy period.
Business there is booming and shows only signs of continuing along that path. The latest additions to the site will be a Starbucks and Qdoba Mexican Restaurant.
PH Johnson Creek is the developer of these two businesses and Matt Hensel of Redmond Company of Waukesha is the lead architect of the project. Hensel spoke with the Daily Times this morning, explaining the project.
The two stores will be located on the east side of state Highway 26, just south of Interstate 94, in front of the Kohl's department store and Menards. They will exist directly across from Culver's which sits on the west side of the highway.
Hensel said his client began looking at the site in the summer of 2016 and the building, when complete, will measure 8,600 square feet.
"It is a multitenant retail building," Hensel said. "Starbucks will occupy the southern tenant space and Qdoba will be in the northern tenant space. There are three middle tenant spaces that have not had occupants finalized as of yet. The site will include off-street parking and a drive-through for Starbucks."
Construction began in late September of 2017.
"Redmond is a design-build firm," Hensel said, "so our roles include being the architect and general contractor."
The Roaring Fork Restaurant Group will own the complex.
Although Starbucks and Qdoba are the only confirmed tenants at this time, negotiations are currently taking place with other prospective tenants. Hensel said he was not at liberty to disclose these potential clients until deals are finalized.
Hensel said Starbucks and Qdoba are likely to open in May, but that is contingent upon when spring weather conditions will allow asphalt for the parking lot to be installed.
"Working with the village staff was a very smooth process," Hensel said. "They were easy to work with, responsive and helpful. The site itself was challenging. There is a large, natural wetland running along the west side of the property that needed to be preserved. The ground slopes significantly on the east side of the wetland, so a substantial retaining wall was needed to flatten out the site for development.
"Also, with the property having street frontage on three sides, it was subject to large paving setbacks that made the design of the building and parking lot challenging."
Johnson Creek Village Administrator Kyle Ellefson said the realization of the two businesses at the nexus of I-94 and Highway 26 is anxiously awaited by the village.
"It looks like it may be two floors, but it's not," Ellefson said. "It's just a tall building. They have a higher than average single-story height. There are no elevators or stairways. It's just tall and more impressive."
Ellefson said the concept for this small strip mall moved through the Johnson Creek Village Plan Commission with no more hang-ups than usual.
"It's a unique lot because there are wetlands in the ditch near it, so there was a retaining wall necessary on the development's west side to make a drive-through possible," he said.
Ellefson said the intersection of the Interstate and Highway 26 continues to be more than ripe for such business facilities.
"The village is ready for these types of development and we support it along with local residents," he said. "It provides amenities for us, as well as the people who visit all our retail and entertainment attractions. This area is specifically designed for something like this and they found a suitable site. It will be a great location for them to grow in."