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Port Washington
With Blues Factory deal done, focus shifts to design PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 24 January 2018 18:50

Developer asked to make changes to accommodate public lakefront plaza for adjacent condo project

    The City of Port Washington sold the north marina slip parking lot to developer Gertjan van den Broek and TBF Development LLC for the Blues Factory entertainment complex.
    It’s a major step forward for the project, but it does not mean the controversy over the proposed development has eased.
    But, van den Broek said, “It’s exciting.”
    Now, in many ways, the hardest work comes.
    Van den Broek is working with the city and neighboring property owners Jim Vollmar and Don Voigt on a plan to widen the alley and create a public plaza between their buildings when the Blues Factory is built and the vacant grocery store in the Port Harbor Center is converted to condominiums.
    “We’ve committed to working with Don and Jim,” van den Broek said. “We’re excited to see a proposal come up for the grocery store space. We view this as an opportunity for all of us to get that entire area redeveloped. If we have to wait six to 12 months to do that, we’ll do that.
    “Getting two shovels in the ground is the goal. We will give them the space and encouragement to do their work, within reason.”
    For Vollmar and Voigt, whose concept plan has been met with enthusiasm by officials, that means first obtaining a height variance from the city since their proposed building will exceed the 35 foot standard.
    The building itself will meet that standard, but the peaked roof will reach to 45 feet, something the project architect said is needed to ensure the structure has a coastal aesthetic.
    The Common Council is expected to consider the height variance when it meets on Tuesday, Feb. 6.
    Hand-in-hand with that, van den Broek, Vollmar and Voigt are working with the city on plans to widen the alley and create a public plaza there.
    Officials have lauded that plan, saying it will create a more aesthetically pleasing area that will draw people in.
    But it all starts with the height variance, Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development, said.
    “If that gets rejected, the negotiations will probably end,” Tetzlaff said.
    “At this point, everybody is on board with doing something like this. We want two shovels in the ground, two successful projects there.”
    Van den Broek concurred, noting that the final design for the Blues Factory will depend on what happens with the alley.
    “A lot of the alley really depends on their final design,” he said. “It starts with the height exemption.”
    If the council approves the height exception, Vollmar and Voigt will then proceed with final designs for their building and use those to look at financing and ensure the plan is feasible, a process  that both van den Broek and Tetzlaff said typically takes about six months.
    “They have to verify the feasibility of the project,” Tetzlaff said.
    At the same time, the city and van den Broek need to reach an agreement to amend the developer’s agreement, which sets deadlines for various phases of the Blues Factory proposal.
    There’s no way around that, van den Broek said.
    “Those are two conflicting requests (negotiating with Vollmar and Voigt and meeting the current deadlines),” he said. “We’re going to have to resolve that.”
    Tetzlaff agreed, saying, “something’s got to give.”
    Once that occurs, van den Broek said he will have to amend the Blues Factory plan to accommodate a widened alley and plaza.
    In the meantime, the city is proceeding with plans to have the tieback and deadmen that stabilize the sheetwall that secures the parking lot replaced, a project expected to be done in the next month or two.
    And van den Broek said he is continuing to work to promote interest in his plan and hold discussions with people interested in operating the various spaces in the Blues Factory, which will pay homage to the role Port Washington played in blues recording history as home to the Wisconsin Chair Co., the parent company of Paramount Records.        
    The entertainment complex is expected to have a performance area, restaurant and banquet facility, and van den Broek said he’s in discussions with people interested in running those spaces.

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