Port officials say tests may be needed because land was site of factory
Port Washington officials who have fast-tracked a controversial plan to seek development proposals for a city-owned parcel of lakefront land will be asked next week to conduct an additional environmental assessment of the property.
If approved, it would delay the city’s quest for development proposals, although Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development, said he did not know how long the work would take.
Although the city has not received the results of an initial environmental assessment of the parking lot at the end of the north slip, that study will likely recommend the extra work, Tetzlaff said Tuesday.
For decades before it was converted to a parking lot, the property was home to industrial buildings — most notably, the Wisconsin Chair Co.
“We don’t know what’s there,” Tetzlaff said. “If I’m going to look to put a development there, I want to know what’s there.”
Typically, the assessment will involve doing soil borings to determine if contaminants are present, Tetzlaff said.
If they are, aldermen will have to decide whether to remediate the site, he said.
The condition of the site will influence the design of whatever building is placed there, Tetzlaff said. If a developer can create a lower level to house mechanical systems, it can minimize the building footprint and maximize public space on the lot, he said.
Even if the city moves ahead with the additional assessment, Tetzlaff said, the general timeline for development proposals remains.
After the request for proposals is issued, developers will have 75 days to respond, after which the city will have 30 days to vet the proposals, he said.
Officials had hoped to complete the process in early July.
The city’s decision to seek development proposals has drawn the ire of residents who believe the municipality should not sell valuable lakefront property but instead keep it public.
But officials note that the city owns miles of lakefront land. This site, they said, offers the community the opportunity to make property available for a project that could spur redevelopment throughout the downtown.
Developers Chris Long of Madison and Gertjan van den Broek of Port Washington have already approached the city with their plan to create a Paramount Blues-themed museum, restaurant, performance space and banquet hall on the property, noting the Wisconsin Chair Co. was the parent company of Paramount Records.