Wisconsin Gets It Right

Wispark’s enlightened president, Jerold Franke, is as savvy on sustainability as the most avant-garde architect

Formed in 1988, Wispark was created to serve as the real estate-development arm of the Wisconsin Energy Corporation (WEC). A provider of gas and electricity to the southern and western parts of Wisconsin, WEC entered the real estate realm to further support communities where its utilities are located. Because of this, environmental impact—particularly energy efficiency—is at the forefront of Wispark president Jerold Franke’s mind. Just after its inception, Wispark began work on LakeView Corporate Park, a mixed-use development offering industrial, office, and retail space. More than 75 percent complete, the 2,400-acre development in Pleasant Prairie has everything from a hotel conference center to a 200-acre public recreation park. Here, Franke elaborates on the sustainable nature of the colossal project.

How did Wispark become involved with LakeView Corporate Park?

JF: LakeView Corporate Park is located adjacent to one of WEC’s coal-fired power plants. When we sought municipal approval, we promised to develop an industrial park that would benefit the community. We are about 75 percent complete at this point, and we’ve attracted companies that have generated over 7,000 jobs in the process. Basically, we took a number of cornfields and cabbage patches and turned it into a 21st-century business park.

How many businesses are there in the park?

JF: Right now there are approximately 80. In the end we expect to have anywhere from 95 to 110, but it’s hard to say exactly because many buildings end up having multiple tenants.

What are some ways that LakeView Corporate Park is sustainable?

JF: The LakeView RecPlex is one of the largest municipal recreation facilities in the country, with two sheets of ice for an indoor hockey rink, an aquatics center with an Olympic-size pool, indoor soccer fields, cardiovascular facilities, basketball courts, and a lot more. This presents a key part of the wellness aspect many companies are pursuing today [as] another part of an overall sustainable real estate project. Additionally, we have a community storm-water-management system rather than each facility having its own pond. We’re also starting to see more uses of innovative energy. Fortunately, most companies coming into the park recognize that sustainability is favorable to their overall bottom line.

Does the corporate park have a LEED rating?

JF: When we started the development in 1987, there were no LEED ratings. Even now LEED still does not have a category for business parks. Most of our buildings are LEED qualified. Additionally, we do try to incorporate as many LEED design features as we can while still remaining practical to the client, whether that [feature be] a building design or a building component. Some of our LEED-like features include energy-efficient rooftop HVAC units, increased wall and roof insulation, T-5 lighting fixtures, local materials, recycled steel, and sediment-control basins that … improve the quality of the runoff from the site rather than simply help to control the amount of runoff.

What other ways is Wispark focused on sustainability?

JF: Though we started out as business-park developers, we are spending more time now on redevelopment and infill sites than we did in the past. We’re focusing on making use of existing infrastructure, which has emerged as a significant aspect of sustainability. It’s important to us to use those structures that still have a lifecycle remaining.

Is focusing on the environment important to you as an individual?

JF: Absolutely. We only have so many resources in this country, and too many people are wasting what we have. There are too many people designing buildings to last decades rather than centuries. We need to be less reliant on the “throw-away” mentality. Previously, I was a municipal planner and development official. Developing a project that’s environmentally sustainable is consistent with my educational training and personal philosophy.