Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 04 March 2015 21:43
Officials weigh cost impact but remain confident that financing district is viable for Cedar Vineyard development
Although the final report isn’t completed, the possibility of creating a tax incremental financing district for the Cedar Vineyard subdivision proposed for Port Washington’s south side still looks good, City Administrator Mark Grams said Tuesday.
The city is continuing to look at both the cost of infrastructure improvements such as utility extensions, a bike path, road repair and land acquisition, he said, as well as the potential boundaries of the district.
That’s because the city may try to connect a portion of the industrial park to the TIF district to accommodate such projects as an expansion of Construction Forms, Grams said.
But to do this, he said, the city will have to work with Anchor Bank to create a connection between the subdivision on the former VK Development land and the industrial park.
“They have indicated they’re willing to work with us,” Grams said.
Grams said the city is struggling to come up with reliable cost estimates for the extension of sewer and water service to the Cedar Vineyard subdivision on Highway C.
The Cedar Vineyard subdivision would have 73 home sites, a 100-acre nature conservancy, vineyard and winery on the former VK Development property.
Officials have said the Cedar Vineyard development is expected to be valued at more than $50 million when completed, with the value of the homes and lots expected to range from $650,000 to $880,000.
In his preliminary calculations, Grams said, he looked at the worst-case scenario, with the utilities costing $6 million and the value of the lots being 25% less than the developer anticipates.
But, Grams said Tuesday, the cost estimate to extend the utilities has been fluctuating as the project engineers look at different ways to extend those services.
“There are ways to cut costs, and that’s what we’re looking at,” Grams said.
Despite the changes, Grams said he still believes the $6 million figure is “probably in the ballpark.”
And that number means a TIF district is still feasible, he said, noting that he still hasn’t included the value of the project’s vineyard and winery in those calculations.
“That gives us a little wiggle room,” he said.
The city is looking at whether it can include a $1 million contribution toward the purchase of a 101-acre nature preserve as a TIF project in the plan, Grams said.
If Ozaukee County balks and won’t help fund the project, the city will consider whether it can contribute the entire $2 million needed, he added.
“We would look at it and see if we can handle it,” he said. “I don’t know if the TIF could handle it.”
Mayor Tom Mlada said that while the city is willing to consider that option, he is confident the county will contribute half the funding for the nature preserve.
“I know you’re not going to move everybody to the yes camp,” he said. “But I think when people really consider the impact this could have not only to the city but to the county, I’m confident this will happen.”
Grams said he hopes to have a draft TIF plan and district borders for the March 17 Common Council meeting.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 25 February 2015 20:08
Port aldermen voice enthusiasm for lakefront project that calls for Paramount museum, entertainment complex
The Port Washington Common Council greeted plans for a Paramount blues-themed entertainment complex on the waterfront with enthusiasm last week, saying the proposal meets every goal officials have set for the city-owned property.
Ald. Doug Biggs, noting the city is expected to seek proposals from developers for the property on the north end of the north slip, said the Blues Factory concept “really sets a high bar for the process, and for anyone else who might be interested in that space.”
Aldermen were enthused about the fact the concept includes a museum, restaurant, entertainment venue and banquet facility.
“Frankly, I think it’s about time,” Ald. Bill Driscoll said, noting a banquet facility is sorely needed in the city. “I like this.”
Ald. Mike Ehrlich said, “I really like the idea. It touches on Port’s history, a part of Port’s history that many residents don’t know about. It’s a rich history.”
“It would fit well with our community,” Ald Dan Becker said. “I love the historical tie. I love the concept.”
To facilitate the sale of the city-owned parking lot, aldermen agreed to spend $1,600 to conduct a phase one environmental assessment of the parking lot and to obtain an appraisal of the property.
The city is expected to seek proposals to develop the land next month.
The Blues Factory concept is the brainchild of Christopher Long of Madison, president and CEO of the Blues Factory, who is working in partnership with Port Washington developer Gertjan van den Broek.
Long, a blues aficionado, said the story of the Wisconsin Chair Co. and Paramount Records has a worldwide following that needs to be commemorated.
The Blues Factory would capitalize on that, providing a destination for tourists and residents alike, Long said, adding that in addition to regular concerts the facility would host an outdoor music festival in summer.
The Blues Factory would primarily sponsor blues and jazz performances — which could be recorded in the performance hall — and focus on emerging artists, Long said.
Long said that before he came to Port Washington, he knew only that the city is home to Allen Edmonds and Paramount Records.
When he first visited, he said, he looked for a monument to the Paramount Records and the Chair Co. and was astonished there wasn’t one.
“The purpose of the Blues Factory is simple, to preserve and celebrate the remarkable story of Paramount Records and the Wisconsin Chair Co.,” Long told the Common Council Feb. 18.
Long said he came up with the idea of the Blues Factory before the city decided to sell the parking lot and was looking at other sites. But, he said, when the city made its controversial decision to seek development proposals for the parking lot, everything fell into place for him.
That’s because the city-owned parking lot is the former home of the chair company, he said, adding he plans to submit a development proposal to the city.
Long said he would like to open the Blues Factory in 2017, noting it is the centennial of the founding of Paramount Records.
The Paramount story is one of a true American art form, as well as one of business and commerce, of technology struggling to find its place in the marketplace and of music, Long said.
The two-story building, which is being designed by the Cedarburg firm of Kubala Washatko Architects, would take up the entire parking lot, he said.
The four aspects of the building — the museum, restaurant, performance space and banquet hall — would incorporate separate but interconnected spaces that could be used alone or in concert with one another, he said.
For example, someone could rent the banquet facility, have their event catered by the restaurant and include a performance in the entertainment hall, he said.
Long said he plans two rounds of equity funding for the project — an initial private offering followed by a direct public offering under Wisconsin’s new crowdfunding laws. This, he said, would allow the community to take ownership of the facility.
Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development, called the proposal “something pretty extraordinary.”
“It’s something that could only go in Port Washington,” he said.
The proposal also meets the city’s goals for the parking lot, Mayor Tom Mlada said. It is in line with the city’s master redevelopment plan, includes a sustainable business and makes efficient use of the lakefront space, is a destination that would bring people and business to downtown and help spur further development.
“It really does check every one of those boxes,” Mlada said.
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 18 February 2015 18:46
Port council wants needs assessment to help determine fate of facility that some officials want closed
Port Washington aldermen were expected on Wednesday to hire a company to conduct a needs assessment that will help determine the fate of the senior center.
Two companies have submitted proposals to conduct the study, which is expected to cost $13,000.
The need for the study became apparent when officials said the city will no longer provide a senior center facility when the lease to the current building expires in two years, but it will continue to offer services for older adults.
Even as the city takes the initial steps to eliminate the senior center, some seniors are letting officials know how important the facility is to them.
“I just want to express my happiness at having a senior center,” Bev Schleg, 1102 N. Stanford St., told the Common Council Feb. 3. “I like the trips. I go to exercise class there. I’m a member of the Chicks with Sticks.
“All the friends I have made there — I would be lost without my senior center.”
The needs assessment, which is expected to gather information on what services seniors want from the city, is expected to poll people of all ages.
The Commission on Aging has recommended the city hire MSA Professional Services to conduct the assessment, which will include everything from the results of a senior services survey to a listing of senior services offered by other groups in the area.
A summary of potential courses of action for the city will also be offered, along with the advantages, disadvantages and general feasibility of each.
MSA estimated it will complete its report in July.
The Common Council agreed earlier this year to spend as much as $6,000 on the assessment, supplementing a $3,000 contribution from the Senior Center, $4,500 from the Friends of the Senior Center and $500 from the Green Felt Club.
The needs assessment will help officials determine what senior services are needed in the future as they grapple with the question of what the senior center will look like in the years to come.
Officials have said a number of seniors are dissatisfied with the current center building on Foster Street, saying the parking is inconvenient and there are too many steps in the building.
The Commission on Aging last year created an ad hoc committee to look at the center’s needs and plan for the future knowing that the current center isn’t necessarily a long-term home for the facility.
“We need to gather evidence to help guide our decision,” Senior Center Director Catherine Kiener said earlier this year, noting the center is a quality-of-life issue for residents. “Hopefully this will draw everything together, the past and present and bring us into the future.”
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 11 February 2015 21:21
Vegetative system to repair three buildings, improve lakefront view recommended by Public Works Board
Port Washington may soon have its own version of Al Johnson’s green roof in Sister Bay — this on the lakefront.
The Board of Public Works on Tuesday voted to install a green roof on three of the buildings that make up the wastewater treatment plant.
It’s a measure that members said would improve the lakefront view from Upper Lake Park while making a needed repair.
The move will complement improvements to the walkway to the north beach that the city will make this spring, board members noted.
“Given the location, I like the idea of it,” Ald. Mike Ehrlich, a member of the board, said. “It’s instant gratification. We’re talking about a significant visual impact.
“And we’re already improving that area by improving the entrance to the beach.”
Public Works Director Rob Vanden Noven said the concept of a green roof is something that’s been talked about for years.
“The ball really got rolling because more and more comments are being made about how unfortunate it is that the plant is right on the lake,” he said. “We’re trying to blend the plant in as much as we can.
“But as nice as the sedum roof is going to look, the two sludge storage tanks aren’t going to let people forget what’s there.”
The three roofs that will have vegetative systems installed are the administrative and headworks buildings — the tallest on the site — and the UV building on the southeast end of the property. These are the buildings most visible from the park, members noted.
The move for a green roof is also economic, board members noted.
While it is a more expensive roofing option, the vegetative system is expected to increase the life of the roof by as much as 20 years, they said. It will also act as insulation and cut heating and cooling costs for the buildings.
That savings alone could amount to $5,000 annually, Wastewater Supr. Dan Buehler said.
The green roofing system that will be used incorporates pregrown mats of sedum, a fairly hardy plant that can tolerate drought and doesn’t need a deep bed of soil, said Erik Krumholz, a consultant with Tremco Roofing.
“You’ll have kind of an instant, ‘Here it is’ effect,” he said, because the sedum is grown before the mats are installed.
A root barrier is installed atop the roof system, then a drainage layer is added before the sedum mats are put into place, he said. Only four inches of soil is used in the system.
An 18-inch walk system will be installed around the edges of the roofs.
The system will hold one gallon of water per square foot during storms, eliminating that runoff, Krumholz said.
Krumholz noted that a leak detection system is included in the roof, allowing any repairs to be made without disturbing much of the roof.
There is a 20-year warranty on the roof and a three year warranty on the plants, he added.
Krumholz said green roofing systems have been around for decades but are becoming more popular, noting they have been installed at the Milwaukee Public Library and the Milwaukee Public Museum.
The library’s 25,000-square-foot roof cost $900,000, or $36 per square foot, he said, and the museum’s 4,200-square-foot roof cost $256,000, or $60.95 per square foot.
The estimated $170,000 cost of the three roofs in Port, which total 6,470 square feet, is about $26.26 per square foot, he said.
The board recommended hiring Cudahy Roofing to do the work — which includes traditional roofing systems on the majority of the buildings at the plant as well as the three green roofs — at a cost of $482,000.
Of that amount, $185,000 is for the green roof.
A railing system will also be installed on the roofs. which will add about $40,000 to the contract.
The Common Council is expected to act on the recommendation when it meets Wednesday, Feb. 18.