By taking no action on Ansay’s offer to purchase 44-acre site, Port council agrees to explore other options
The Port Washington Common Council last week took no action on a proposed option to purchase 44 acres of city-owned south bluff land, effectively rebuffing developer Mike Ansay’s latest plan to buy the land for a corporate headquarters, Mayor Tom Mlada said.
That’s because Ansay’s offer to purchase the land will expire before the council meets again on Tuesday, Sept. 6, he said.
“I think the thought is that we ought to explore other opportunities,” Mlada said.
That doesn’t mean the city has closed the door on future talks with Ansay, chairman and CEO of Ansay & Associates, he said.
“The clear feeling is there is an openness to continue with Mike,” Mlada said.
Last week, Ansay presented a neighborhood development plan for the city’s lakefront to aldermen and, as part of that proposal, said his firm had offered the city a $50,000 non-refundable six-month option for the land.
During those six months, Ansay said, his company would investigate and develop plans for a corporate center on the land.
He said he was willing to pay $65,000 an acre for the land, noting the closing would occur in 2019.
Ansay’s plan called for a corporate center to house his firm, which he said would add 100 new jobs over the next five years, as well as a conference center, an innovation center for start-up businesses, some office spaces, public viewing areas and mixed-use spaces.
Mlada said the city values and wants to keep Ansay & Associates in the community, but it needs to be good stewards and look at all options for the land.
“We want Ansay & Associates here,” he said. “But there’s a balance we need to maintain. This is a special piece of property.”
The city acquired the undeveloped land from We Energies more than a decade ago as part of a deal in which the community agreed to support the utility’s conversion of its coal-fired plant to a natural gas-fueled facility.
Eyed through the years as a prime residential site, officials held onto the property as the real estate market ebbed and surged but decided last year to look into the potential of selling it.
In December, Ansay Development proposed buying the land for a corporate headquarters, training center and boutique hotel to be developed in phases over an unspecified amount of time.
The city agreed to negotiate exclusively with Ansay for 60 days and apply for a $500,000 Wisconsin Idle Industrial Site Redevelopment Program Grant to help cover the cost of bringing sewer and water services to the property if Ansay’s proposal was approved. In return, the company would commit to creating 100 new jobs initially and as many as 250 over time.
The city did not receive the grant, and although officials continued to negotiate with Ansay over the potential sale, last month the Common Council decided to seek other proposals for the property.
Several city committees have debated potential uses of the land, but officials have taken no steps yet to market the property.