Blues Factory sidelined by economy

But developer says he plans to proceed with waterfront entertainment complex in marina district where other projects continue to take shape

DEVELOPMENT IN PORT WASHINGTON’S marina district is proceeding quickly, as can be seen in this photo taken from the corner of Harborview Lane and Pier Street that shows foundation work done on Ansay Development’s Lake Harbor Lofts condominium project in the foreground and the first of three Lakepointe Townhome buildings being constructed by Stephen Perry Smith in the background. Photo by Bill Schanen IV
Ozaukee Press staff

Port Washington developer Gertjan van den Broek said he expects to proceed with plans for the Blues Factory entertainment complex in spring, a decision he said is predicated on the economy.

“It’s not that I’ve put it aside,” van den Broek said of the Blues Factory. “It’s alive.”

But, he said, the reality is that the economy makes it impractical to start the development. 

“The cost of construction is 20% higher than it was a few years ago,” van den Broek said. 

Tariffs and large construction projects, such as the Foxconn development and the need to rebuild large swaths of the South after hurricanes and other natural disasters have driven up the cost of materials, he said.

And large construction projects such as Foxconn are increasing the cost of labor, he added.

“In today’s economy, I could not have built Harbour Lights,” van den Broek said, referring to the condominium and retail project he completed at the corner of Main and Franklin streets in downtown Port in 2016.

But, he said, in the next year or so he anticipates construction on the Blues Factory to start.

“We’ll just see how the economy goes,” van den Broek said, adding he would like to see the Blues Factory open by spring 2021.

But while progress on the Blues Factory has stopped, other marina district developments are moving ahead.

The Common Council is expected to discuss a memorandum of understanding regarding a proposed land swap to accommodate the Newport Shores development when it meets Tuesday, Dec. 4.

The city has been asked to swap two parcels south of the current Newport Shores restaurant for land along the lakeshore east of the restaurant.

Ansay Development unveiled plans this spring for a striking, modern building  with a mix of uses — condominiums, office space, a store, restaurant and rooftop pub — to replace the current restaurant on the Port Washington waterfront.

  “We’re on track for a spring start,” Ian McCain, Ansay’s design/construction manager, said.

He said the firm is working internally on the plans, and is also working with potential operators for the restaurant.

“There’s a lot of engineering and architectural work that has to go into it,” he said.

A decision hasn’t been made as to when the current Newport Shores restaurant will close, McCain said.

Work on the southern building in Ansay’s Lake Harbor Lofts condominium project in the marina district is expected to be completed by early next year, McCain said. 

Construction of the second building could follow in spring.

“It all depends on the market,” McCain said.

McCain said the condo project has attracted “a lot of interest.”

“It’s still a little early, but we have had a lot of interest in those,” he said. “The location’s amazing. The views are incredible, and the captain’s quarters and rooftop deck are really an attraction.”

Work is continuing on the neighboring Lakepointe Townhomes being developed by Stephen Perry Smith. 

The Common Council  last week authorized applying for a $365,000 loan at 4.75% interest from the State Trust Fund to help Smith remediate soil issues on the property.

City Administrator Mark Grams said that the first installment of the funds will likely be paid out at the end of the year or beginning of next year.

Payments on the loan will be made by the increased taxes on the improved property, with the developer obligated to make up the difference if the taxes don’t cover the payments.

Ansay Development is also continuing its work on plans to convert the St. John XXIII School’s St. Mary’s building to apartments.

The firm has an accepted offer to purchase the school and adjoining parish center and has announced plans to convert them into an apartment building with between 25 and 35 market-rate units.

“We’re working with the church and parish to progress with that,” McCain said, adding the firm has not completed its purchase of the school.

The company is continuing to look at a pay-as-you-go tax incremental financing district to help finance the renovation, he said.

“We don’t know the final scope of the project yet,” McCain said. “When we do, we’ll make a determination.”

To accommodate the project, St. John XXIII School will construct an addition to its St. Peter’s Campus so it can consolidate operations there.

A groundbreaking for the addition is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 9.


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