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Cooney is definitely an 'auto zone' now

Auto Zone franchise looks to open on Wisconsin Avenue

Nov. 14, 2012

City of Oconomowoc - Make that five; the number of auto parts businesses on Wisconsin Avenue may soon increase, as plans have been submitted to construct an Auto Zone at 800 Wisconsin Ave.

The applicant, Kimley-Horn and Associates out of Lisle, Ill., has approached the city to build a franchise of the national auto parts store. The Plan Commission was set to review the request on Wednesday; that meeting occurred after press time.

The request seeks permission to put up a 6,446-square-foot building at Wisconsin Avenue and Lapham Street; the area is currently vacant land. The store will be within a mile of Tim's Auto Parts, NAPA, Advanced Auto Parts and O'Reilly Auto Parts.

Tim Gosh, owner Tim's Auto Parts, said he's not worried about more competition. He said his hometown business offers things that the corporate franchises can't, as well as being part of the community. Gosh said his customers appreciate that.

"They appreciate our years of experience and expertise. They appreciate that we are a homegrown, community-orientedbusiness that participates in fundraising for the food pantry, Lions Club and Kiwanis," Gosh said.

He said with the auto parts dealers all in close proximity, it sometimes comes down to who can get the part the fastest.

"I can't control things the bigger corporations can like buying power and volume, but I can control what's behind my parts counter and make sure my staff is trained, friendly and can go the extra mile," he said.

When asked if Kimley-Horn and Associates indicated why it would want to move into such a saturated market, City Planner Jason Gallo said he wasn't sure, but noted that in the current economy more people are opting to maintain their cars before buying a new one.

Planning staff said the new store would add to recent improvements in the East Wisconsin Avenue corridor. The business trend in much of the area seems to be fix-it or improvement-type businesses.

"During the past couple years there has been an increase in property improvements within this corridor area. New businesses locating in the area include Jim O'Connor Auto, Wolf Siding & Windows, JP Kitchen Studio, Y's Way Flooring and the restaurant Mi Hacienda Real.

"As residents and other property owners in the area see these improvements, this corridor becomes a greater shopping destination," reads the planning comments submitted with the application, which recommends approval.

Gallo also said the city held the applicant to a higher standard when building plans were submitted. "They came in with a stark building, and we helped them dress it up quite a bit," he said.

According to the planning document, the upgraded architecture will include a tower element at 32 feet with decorative brackets, faux windows on all four sides, a stone column near the doorway and vertical and horizontal elements that break up the building mass.

Another positive is that the project, estimated to be worth $850,000, would add increment to the city's downtown tax incremental financing district (TIF) which has struggled the past several years with a lack of development.

The Plan Commission and Architectural Commission were set to review the Auto Zone plans at Wednesday night's meetings. If approved, construction could begin as soon as the applicant is ready. Gallo did not know a timeline for the project, and a reporter's phone call to the applicantwas not returned.

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