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Port Washington
Clock ticking on latest Blues Factory deadline PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 31 August 2016 20:43

Port council to discuss pending sale of marina parking lot, competing lakefront development plans

The Port Washington Common Council will have two building projects that could determine the future of the lakefront on its agenda next Tuesday — the controversial proposal for Blues Factory development on the north marina parking lot and two residential projects proposed for the car-trailer parking lot across the street.

One of those residential proposals has expanded into a sweeping neighborhood plan that would also incorporate a park on the Blues Factory site if negotiations for the entertainment complex fall through. 

City Administrator Mark Grams said Tuesday that the council will discuss the Blues Factory proposal in closed session and is likely to extend the deadline to create a developer’s agreement and complete the sale.

The council, which agreed in May to sell the north slip parking lot to developer Christopher Long, originally set the deadline for a developer’s agreement in June and said the sale should be completed by Aug. 31. Those deadlines were later extended to Sept. 6. 

Grams said the delay has been largely due to financing and some infrastructure issues that could affect the development.

“We’re still working with them on the financial end of things and on the developer’s agreement,” Grams said.

Ald. Dan Becker, president of the council, acknowledged there is a possibility of extending the deadline again.

“Things are in motion,” he said. “It’s been quite a long process, and we’re willing to continue to work with the developer. We do want to see a resolution sooner rather than later, but we’re willing to give it some more time.”

That’s based on the path the city and Long have traveled so far, he said, and the project itself.

“It’s a project all the aldermen are behind and believe in, so we’re willing to give it a little extra time,” Becker said.

The Blues Factory proposal has proven controversial, with some residents saying the city should not sell publicly owned lakefront land. Officials, on the other hand, have said the proposal would create a year-round destination that will draw people to the lakefront and downtown. 

On Monday, Ald. Mike Ehrlich told the Community Development Authority that the council will get “an overall picture of what needs to be done yet” during the closed session.

But CDA member Erica Roller asked how long the city will take to make a final decision in the matter.

“At what point do you say we’ve wasted enough time to get the Blues Factory here?” she asked. “When is enough enough?”

Ehrlich said, “I don’t think we’ve ever set a hard date (for that decision),” adding both sides have been working diligently on the deal.

Jason Wittek, an advisory member of the CDA, said that the time frame set by the council “isn’t very long” in terms of a real estate deal.

Ehrlich noted that Long’s original time schedule called for the deal to be sealed in spring so the Blues Factory could be completed by spring 2017, for the 100th anniversary of Paramount Records.

He said that if a deal is reached, he believes construction is likely to begin in spring and be completed in 2018.

A final resolution to the Blues Factory is likely to come sometime this fall, Becker said.

The Common Council is also expected to discuss in open session two proposals for residential developments on the city-owned car-trailer parking lot across from the Blues Factory site.

Ansay Development initially proposed creating a 44-apartment building on both the former Victor’s property and the adjoining city-owned car-trailer parking lot, while architect Stephen Smith, who wants to build 11 townhouse condominium units just on the parking lot property.

That discussion is complicated by a plan Ansay, along with businessmen John Weinrich and Charlie Puckett, brought to the Common Council two weeks ago that modified his plan and expanded it to encompass a four-block area.

“He wants us to look at it as a package,” Grams said.

That sweeping “marina district” plan moves the apartment building one block north, and replaces it on the Victor’s and car-trailer lot with 20 row houses. 

Ansay also proposed purchasing the north slip parking lot if the Blues Factory plan falls through and creating a privately owned park there. A small building would also be built on the site.

His plan also calls for the NewPort Shores property at the east end of Jackson Street to be recreated into an entertainment complex.

Tuesday’s discussion will be the first public discussion of the two original development proposals, and of the larger neighborhood plan Ansay introduced.

Grams noted that officials are working to define the financial implications of each plan, noting that while Smith is not seeking development incentives for his project, Ansay is.

Aldermen need to look not just at the incentives but also the payback and how much financing is available in the tax incremental financing district, Becker said.

“I would say a decision on that is probably a little way off,” he said, particularly because it will take time to analyze all the TIF implications. 

At Monday’s CDA meeting, resident John Sigwart suggested the city create a comprehensive plan for the lakefront area, saying it could help officials get a better handle on the best use of this valuable land.

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