PRESS EDITORIAL: Tear up the Blues Factory agreement

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers is renegotiating the Foxconn agreement, the vaunted $4 billion deal offering cash and other incentives to the Chinese electronics company to lure its new plant and jobs to the state.

President Donald Trump and his cabinet secretaries are renegotiating numerous agreements with states as well as military pacts, trade accords and treaties with countries.

Corporations, municipalities, states and nations renegotiate agreements routinely as a standard operating procedure. There is nothing unusual, unconventional or unethical about rewriting the terms of agreements in response to changes in conditions and the parties to the agreements.

There is no good reason for the City of Port Washington to live with an agreement that is heavily skewed toward the interests of a developer at the expense of citizens. It is time for elected officials to renegotiate the Blues Factory agreement.

The Blues Factory, a music-themed business in a multi-storied building designed to resemble a manufacturing plant, was a bad idea when it was first proposed for public lakefront land. Now, nearly five years later, changes in the marina district have made it patently unacceptable.

The changes are the new buildings clustered across the street from the Blues Factory site. It was inevitable that this land would be developed with welcome economic benefit to the city. But as the condos rise, the density of the development that packs three tall, rectangular buildings virtually wall to wall on a small city block, with two more buildings on the same site planned, is visually overwhelming. It makes more obvious than ever the need to keep the Blues Factory site between the condos and the north slip marina open to salvage the remaining lake views and the city’s treasured nautical ambience.

If the Blues Factory is built one street-width away from the massed condos, the view down Washington Street, once an expansive lake vista, will be reduced to a narrow corridor.

This encroachment on physical and visual space may be acceptable for the tunnel-like streets of a high-rise metropolis, but it should not be tolerated in a community blessed with small-town character and a lakeshore location.

Yet, as things stand, developer Gertjan van den Broek can build the Blues Factory on the harbor lot whenever he feels like it under the agreement with the city.

He told Ozaukee Press he intends to do just that with a goal of completing the building by 2021.

That stubborn redeclaration of intent to build on the lakefront site should be a signal to the mayor and aldermen to rewrite the Blues Factory agreement.

Renegotiation should lead to the return to van den Broek of the money he paid for the land and the return of the land to the taxpayers.

The city should then offer the developer support for his project on another downtown site.

If the Blues Factory is a viable business concept (financing challenges have so far kept it in a state of limbo), it can succeed on an alternative site. It certainly does not have to be built on one of the last open spaces in the marina district.        

The prospects for successfully renegotiating the agreement are better than might be expected. The mayor and council members who aggressively pushed for the sale of the marina land for the Blues Factory in the face of strong public opposition are out of office. Their replacements clearly have more open minds on the subject.

For his part, van den Broek is heavily invested in the city and has a working relationship with its officials that is in his interest to keep in good standing.

Most important, rewriting the Blues Factory agreement to save the land for public use would be an act of civic service that would earn for both the elected representatives and the developer the deserved esteem of the people of Port Washington.


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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

125 E. Main St.
Port Washington, WI 53074
(262) 284-3494


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