Port council, developer continue to privately negotiate controversial sale of marina parking lot
Port Washington officials again last week met in closed session with Chris Long of Madison, president and CEO of the Blues Factory, to continue negotiations for the potential sale of a city-owned marina parking lot.
City Administrator Mark Grams said Tuesday the two sides are “inching closer” to an agreement on the potential sale of the parking lot where Long wants to build a Paramount Blues-themed entertainment complex.
“We’ve made progress,” Grams said. “We had a good discussion on the financing. We both know now where we stand.
“Now let’s see if we can make things work.”
The two sides have not come to an agreement on the sale of the lot, Grams said.
“I think we’ll know by the end of April where things are going to go,” he said.
That may pose a timing issue for the development. When Long proposed the Blues Factory last year, he said he hoped to break ground in April in order to ensure the development would be open in 2017 for the centennial of the Wisconsin Chair Co., parent company of Paramount Records.
There are a number of issues facing the city and Long as they negotiate the potential sale of the parking lot.
Among those are likely the cost of the land, as well as $1 million in tax incremental financing incentives Long has said he will seek from the city.
The city has conducted environmental tests on the land that have shown some minimal contamination, and the question of who will remediate the property may also be an issue in negotiations.
City officials are likely also looking for ways to ensure the development will pay off for the TIF district, especially if incentives are provided for the development.
The city has only provided development incentives for one other project — Port Harbour Lights, a multi-million retail and residential project under construction at the corner of Franklin and Main streets.
There, the city lent developer Gertjan van den Broek funding with the payments expected to be covered by increased property taxes from the project. Among the city’s assurances that will happen is a requirement that any shortfall must be made up by van den Broek.
Long said last year that in addition to the incentives, the project would be funded through private equity — as much as $500,000 from accredited investors and $1 million in crowdfunding — as well as a construction loan.
The potential sale of the north slip parking lot has proven to be controversial, with city officials touting the economic benefits of the Blues Factory and its potential as a catalyst for year-round development in downtown while some residents have questioned the wisdom of selling publicly owned lakefront land.
Grams said that while negotiations for the sale of the parking lot continue, the Common Council is likely to review a certified survey map that would delineate the parking lot property.
Currently, that land is part of a larger parcel that also includes part of Washington Street as well as the car-trailer parking lot on the north side of the street.
The CSM would create separate parcels for the two parking lots and delineate the street, Grams said.
It is essential for any sale of the properties — not just the marina lot under consideration for the Blues Factory but also the car-trailer lot, he said.
Officials have said they may need to sell a portion of that lot to ensure redevelopment of the former Victor’s restaurant property.
In its downtown redevelopment plan, the city has envisioned a three to four-story residential structure being developed on the property, realizing that at least a portion of the parking lot may be needed for that plan to become reality.