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Developers woo city for south bluff land PDF Print E-mail
Written by krisTYN HALBIG ZIEHM   
Thursday, 09 February 2017 00:35

Firms pitch plans for multimillion-dollar, publicly subsidized projects that include 195 to 346 new homes

Developers who presented diverse plans to develop 44 acres of city-owned land just south of the We Energies power plant in Port Washington Tuesday had three main things in common – their projects will bring hundreds of houses, apartments and condos to the community, be worth tens of millions of dollars and add roughly $1 million annually to the city’s tax revenues and require a multimillion-dollar city subsidy.

The three developers took a total of about two hours to present their concepts, which all include public lands along the bluff and access to the beach as well as pedestrian and bike paths, to the Common Council.

Only one called for buying an 11-acre We Energies site just north of the city land, although another developer said he has a plan for the property.

Aldermen asked questions after each presentation, but offered few comments. However, they did meet in closed session to discuss the proposals.

The Common Council is expected to discuss the proposals again at its Wednesday, Feb. 22, meeting, Mayor Tom Mlada said. No action is expected before the council’s Tuesday, March 7, meeting, he said.

The proposals are:

nPrairie’s Edge, proposed by Black Cap Halcyon, Kubala Washatko Architects of Cedarburg and Altius Building Co.

The development would include 195 housing units — two three-story multifamily buildings, one with 82 units and one with 35 units; 60 two-story townhouses designed for empty-nesters; and 18 free-standing cottage homes between 700 and 1,600 square feet with unobstructed lake views.

The buildings would be kept as far west as possible to preserve the bluff, and care would be taken to create “green fingers” between clusters of buildings and pocket neighborhoods within the project, architect Allen Washatko said.

Those “fingers” would create view corridors for pedestrians and motorists as well as residents, he said, and many of the buildings would echo the shapes found in barns throughout the Midwest. 

The density would be highest on the north end of the bluff land, developer Tony Polston said, with 39,000 square feet of commercial space created on the far north end of the property.

“We’re not trying to compete with downtown,” Polston said of the commercial space. There would be four commercial buildings with light office uses and boutique retail spaces.

In addition, the plan calls for a 9,700-square-foot venue for weddings, corporate events and other occasions.

The We Energies land would be incorporated into the plan for trails, a gazebo or pavilion and an amphitheater that could be used as a sledding hill in winter.

Among the amenities in the subdivision would be stairs to the beach, a clubhouse, dog runs and an electric car-charging station.

Polston said he expects the project could be built in three phases over four to five years, with construction of the first phase beginning in July 2018.

The value of the project is estimated at $59 million, which Polston said would bring in more than $1 million annually in tax revenue. 

Polston said the firm would pay $3,665,000 for the property — $2.86 million for the city land and $805,000 for the We Energies land.

After the project is completed, he said, the firm would ask the city to reimburse the cost of the public amenity spaces, an estimated $4.1 million.

nSeven Hills Farm, proposed by Shaffer Development and Mayer Helminiak Architects.

The project would have an average of 7.8 units per acre in a conservancy-style development, Shaffer Development owner Cindy Shaffer said. 

It would include 346 housing units — three 72-unit apartment buildings, 50 duplex condominiums and eight 10-unit townhouses.

The lowest density would be along the lake, where the condominiums would be built and gardens located, Shaffer said, adding the architecture has a coastal feeling.

Shaffer noted that a city review committee questioned a lack of detail in her plan, but said that is by design. She likes to hold listening sessions to get ideas and ensure projects are what the community wants and needs.

Shaffer said the project was inspired by the city’s lakefront location and the area’s farming heritage. 

The proposal includes a farm that she said would be owned by the subdivision and run by the residents or a property manager.

The plan calls for amenities such as a community building and a tram to the beach, which would make the lakefront accessible to seniors and people with handicaps. Shaffer said the tram would be open to the public, not just residents of the subdivision.

The condominiums would be marketed and pre-sold this year, with construction slated to begin next year, Shaffer said, and the townhouses would be built beginning in 2018. The condos are expected to be between 1,800 and 2,400 square feet and priced at about $400,000 or rented for about $1.50 per square foot, or $1,500 monthly for a 1,000 square foot unit.

Construction of one of the three apartment buildings would begin in 2019. The timeline for construction of the other buildings depends  on occupancy, Shaffer said.

The project would be valued at $66 million, and Shaffer estimated the taxes generated would be $1.2 million annually.

She is asking to buy the land for $1 and is seeking a tax incremental financing contribution of an estimated $6 million to pay for infrastructure. The property is not part of the city’s existing TIF districts.

nWatercolor,  proposed by Stephen Perry Smith Architects, Sawall Development, Renew Port Holdings and SEH Inc.

The plan calls for about 261 housing units — four 30 or 33-unit, three-story  apartment buildings; five 17-unit, two-story apartment homes; seven four-unit, three-story townhouse buildings; and 16 single-family homes.

Each housing type would be clustered in a neighborhood facing a courtyard with native landscaping and fire pits. There would be walking paths throughout the project. 

“We’re trying to tie all the architecture together but still provide each (neighborhood) with its own identity,” architect Stephen Smith said, noting an Arts and Crafts style would run through the development.

Sight lines would be maintained to the lake for pedestrians and motorists, and a walkway along the bluff would incorporate three gazebos where people could linger, Smith said. A staircase to the beach would be incorporated into the plan.

Ponds, grilling areas, a clubhouse and two dog parks would also be part of the project.

The value of the project is estimated at between $38 million and $45 million, depending on whether the townhouses are leased or sold, Smith said, and would bring in an expected $800,000 in taxes annually. 

The firm expects to pay about $2.2 million, or $50,000 per acre, for the land, Art Sawall of Sawall Development said, and would seek $3.6 million to $4.3 million — 9.5% of the project cost — from the city.

The project would be built over four to six years, depending on the market.

Smith said the firm is not seeking the We Energies land because it has been told a large employer in town wants the property, but if that doesn’t happen they do have a plan to create two 30,000-square-foot office buildings there.

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