A sculpture of Norman Rockwell will be built in the Village Center, even though the Planning Commission recommended denial of the proposal.
In a 5-1 vote Tuesday night, the Greendale Village Board went against the commission’s recommendation, allowing Grandhaven, LLC to move forward with the privately-funded statue of the famous painter and illustrator.
Roy Reiman, founder of Reiman publications and owner of Grandhaven, LLC, spoke in favor of the sculpture, and said it had the potential to attract more visitors to the Village Center.
“I’ve been looking for some gimmick that will attract people, especially that million market to Greendale,” said Reiman who also said the sculpture was not his idea. “We need a ‘Gotta see this in Greendale.’”
But when the commission turned down the sculpture last week, commissioners said the sculpture lacked a historical connection with Greendale, was a traffic hazard and should be placed on Grandhaven property, not Village property.
President John Hermes, who also sits on the Planning Commission was the sole vote against the proposal. Trustee Carl Genz was absent.
Grandhaven is the landlord of the Village Center shops and is owned by Roy Reiman. Reiman is the founder of Reiman Publications and has been credited with restoring the vitality of the Village Center 15 years ago.
Greendale has been marketed throughout the years as a Norman Rockwell-type of town, mostly by Reiman Publications and the Greendale Visitor Center.
In his speech to the board Reiman explained that prior to the purchase of Reiman Publications by Reader’s Digest he was able to write letters in all the publications to their millions of readers inviting them to Greendale. He is no longer able to do that. The Greendale Visitor Center, formerly known as the Reiman Visitor Center, was once managed and operated by Reiman Publications. Readers Digest decided they no longer wanted to take part in the visitor center and Grandhaven lost a tenant that paid $180,000 a year.
In order to keep the center from closing, Grandhaven took over management of the location.
In recent years the number of visitors and bus tours have declined. Grandhaven and Reiman hope the sculpture would serve as an attraction to bring in more visitors.
Reiman said he doesn’t want people saying “I don’t like it. It was Reiman’s idea and he put it there.”
“The only way it’s going to go there is if you collectively think it’s a good idea…but I will ask: Do you have any better ideas,” Reiman said in his speech to the board. “We’re open to ideas. We need something new different, interesting…something people talk about.”
Trustee Ron Barbian said he believes the sculpture will bring people to the Village Center and the safety hazard reason for the commission denying the request was “baloney.” He said the sculpture would serve as a distraction the same as any other advertisement sign.
“We should not try to second guess a well-respected man that has done great things in business and has moved forward,” said Trustee Greg Turay. “He’s making this as a business decision to help the properties down here to generate more traffic.”
The construction of the sculpture will start along with the re-pavement of the Village Center parking lots. The Village will reserve the right to remove the sculpture if ever it feels it no longer serves the interest of Greendale.