Senior apartments proposed for troublesome lot

Plan for Spring Street property owned by Port CDA calls for the creation of pay-as-you-go TIF district
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

Members of Port Washington’s Community Development Authority on Monday greeted with enthusiasm a proposal to build a senior apartment project on a former trailer park on South Spring Street owned by the city.

But the senior living project proposed by Horizon Development on a problematic parcel that has been vacant since the CDA acquired it in 2007 would require the city to create another tax incremental financing district. 

This TIF district, like one recently proposed by Ansay Development for its renovation of St. John XXIII’s St. Mary’s Catholic School, would be a pay-as-you-go district where the developer, not the city, would pay the cost of development upfront and be repaid a portion of the money through increased taxes on the land.

Horizon, which has developed 78 senior housing projects in its 34 years, proposes to construct a 40-unit, three story apartment building for people ages 55 and older.  

Tenants would be required to meet age and income qualifications, he said, adding that the one-bedroom units would rent for between $365 and $845 a month and the two-bedroom units for $761 to $1,000, said Will Rutherford, a development associate with Horizon.

The building would have underground parking, a clubroom with a kitchen, outdoor patio, fitness center, storage lockers and secure entries, he added.

“We think this is a great location,” Rutherford said, noting it is less than a mile from the senior center and downtown Port. 

The project is expected to be valued at about $2.8 million, he said.

Rutherford said Horizon will apply for tax credits from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority for the project.

He said the firm would like to work out a purchase agreement for the property by July, adding this would allow the company to apply for funding not just from WHEDA but also the HOME Consortium  and Federal Home Loan Bank.

Depending on how this goes, he said, Horizon could begin construction in spring 2020 with completion of the project in spring 2021. 

The city has been trying to find a buyer for the 2.3-acre property for years, but interest has been negligible because electrical high lines cross the land, there are railroad tracks on the east side of the lot and the neighboring trailer park are seen by potential developers as a detriment.

Rutherford told the CDA that Horizon had looked at acquiring the adjoining trailer park as well, but those discussions did not pan out.

“It’s still something we would consider in the future,” he said, “but right now this project is focused on the land owned by the CDA.”

CDA members said a senior living facility would be a good use for the parcel, and said they are open to the idea of a pay-as-you-go TIF for the project.

“I could support this, and I could support the TIF in this case,” Ald. Mike Ehrlich, a member of the CDA, said. “How long have we sat on this site? This proposal makes a lot of sense. It’s a piece of property we’re not getting any taxes from ... and we don’t have to front any money.”

CDA member Jason Wittek agreed, saying, “As far as the use, I think it’s great. This could help redefine how we look at the neighborhood and how we plan there for the future.”

CDA member Bill Prince suggested the group put together a financial balance sheet for the project that would include the appraised value of the land, the TIF value and other data for consideration at the group’s June meeting. 

If approved, the project would go to the Common Council for consideration.

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