If all goes well in the coming months, Oconomowoc may get its first food truck park. And, if the success of developments like Zocalo Food Park (which has successfully drawn crowds to a previously under-developed South Side corridor) are any indication, the project could be a game changer for Downtown Oconomowoc.
That's thanks to Mike and Ken Herro, who’ve proposed The Mainsail, an innovative family-friendly gathering space and food truck court on their property at 202 - 310 E. Wisconsin Ave.
Food trucks, kids' play area and more
The proposal for the property – which currently includes the building that housed CW Brown Printing, a duplex and an automotive repair shop – would include space for eight food trucks (including two rotating vendor slots), a bar and restrooms, a kids’ zone with swings and bocci ball courts and a seating area with a fire pit.
To accommodate the park, both the printer and duplex would be razed, says Herro. But the 1800 square foot repair shop would be remodeled to accommodate restrooms and a bar with an open-air feel. The plans also include a stage, which could accommodate entertainment, including live music on weekends.
Herro says the name of the park, The Mainsail, is an homage to the area, which has a long history of inland sailing and yachting. The sailing theme would also be integrated into various elements at the park.
“We feel strongly that this would provide a great opportunity for Ocononomowoc,” says Herro. “We don’t have many outdoor community eating areas, and this would provides a safer venue for both eating and gathering, especially during these post-COVID times.”
Herro says that the food truck park would likely be temporary, but could occupy the space for as long as five years. Longer term plans include the development of the property into a multi-use commercial and residential site. But, the larger scale project is one that Herro says they don’t want to rush.
“We’ve had a lot of building going on in recent years, and a lot of change,” he says. “And we want to make sure that we have a plan for a multi-use site that really wows us and area residents. So, the idea is to take the time to really develop a building that befits the character of Oconomowoc and that will be around for another 100 years.”
In the meantime, he says, they are focusing on The Mainsail, the plans for which are currently being advised based on feedback from the city.
“We’ve met with the city, and we’re working through some elements,” he says. “Currently, we’re in the process of altering the plan to resubmit it to the city, and hopefully from there it can move on to the planning commission.”
Herro says that, regardless of how quickly the plan is approved, construction would likely begin no earlier than spring or summer of 2022.
“We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback about the project from a variety of people,” says Herro. “And we know it has the potential to bring a great deal of positive energy to Downtown. We’ve had two or three food carts parked on the property for years, and we’ve seen how it draws people to the area without detracting from the business of local restaurants.
“We view it as a way to bring in folks from the surrounding area that might not ordinarily visit Oconomowoc. That makes it a huge asset, both for local residents and area businesses.”
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.