Council was expected to increase TIF incentives to $4 million for projects like controversial Blues Factory
Port Washington aldermen were expected on Wednesday to double down on their commitment to use public money to finance private downtown development, increasing the amount of money allocated for developer incentives in the tax incremental financing district.
The Common Council was expected to hire Trilogy Consultants to handle administrative work to amend the TIF plan, increasing the amount of development incentives from the $750,000 originally expected to an estimated $4 million.
The city has already exceeded the $750,0000, giving $1.75 million in loans to developer Gertjan van den Broek for the Port Harbour Lights retail and residential project in downtown.
Madison-based developer Christopher Long said last year he would seek $1 million in incentives for the Blues Factory, a controversial project that would convert a city-owned lakefront parking lot to a Paramount Blues-themed entertainment complex.
The city also anticipates it could be asked to provide incentives for downtown redevelopment projects earmarked by the Community Development Authority, City Administrator Mark Grams said.
Among those are redevelopment of the former Victor’s restaurant and Dairy Queen properties on Washington Street, and Jadair Inc. property off Milwaukee Street, he said.
While the CDA proposed redevelopment projects for these sites and several others, only the Blues Factory and a potential project on the former Victor’s restaurant site planned by Ansay Development are pending at the moment.
City officials have yet to weigh in on the Blues Factory proposal, although they are negotiating the sale of the parking lot and discussing terms that could include incentives for the project.
Grams said officials are also looking at the potential sale of a portion of the car-trailer parking lot adjacent to the Victor’s property. He would not say whether that project could involve development incentives as well.
The $750,000 included in the TIF plan was a general guideline, Grams said — one that officials didn’t anticipate would need to be higher.
“This (TIF plan) was done six years ago, and we never anticipated any of this development,” he said.
“With multiple projects and the potential we have, we need to adjust the dollar amount.”
Because the city is looking at a substantial increase over the original plan, Grams said, its consultant said it needs to amend the TIF plan.
“Now we’re looking at different projects, and we’re looking at tripling that,” he said.
Officials are still debating how much to increase the incentive program, Grams said. It’s tricky, he said, because officials don’t know what projects are likely to be proposed over the remaining 20 years of the TIF district, how much they will increase the value of the district or what incentives may be sought by developers.
“We really need to sit down and think, ‘What do we need?’” he said. “There might be projects out there we haven’t thought of.”
Grams said the city needs to make sure it includes enough money in the amended plan for the incentive program. That’s because it only has one chance to amend the TIF plan.
Amending the plan isn’t simple, nor is it inexpensive.
The city was expected to hire Trilogy at a cost of $10,450 to guide the project though a process that could take months.
That’s because the city isn’t the only group that needs to approve the amendment. The Joint Review Board, which includes representatives of the various taxing entities that make up the TIF — the city, Ozaukee County, Port Washington-Saukville School District and Milwaukee Area Technical College and a citizen — also needs to OK it.
Development incentives, although relatively new in Port Washington — the first project to receive them was Port Harbour Lights — are a common tool used by communities to spur redevelopment.
In the Village of Grafton, for example, these incentives have been used on at least eight redevelopment projects that have increased the value of the downtown by more than $25 million, officials said several years ago.