Green Lake could see an influx of new housing downtown as the Common Council is exploring creating a possible Tax Increment Financing District that could serve multiple purposes.
Over the last several months, the city has hosted several closed session talks related to potential development at 486 and 492 Hill St. The nature of the project was revealed at Monday’s Committee of the Whole meeting.
Developers plan to convert the former Green Lake County Safety Building into condominiums and reconfigure spaces in the Town Square Community Center for programs.
Town Square’s campus would split into two parcels, with community center tenants relocating to the original courthouse facility and the condos going in the Safety Building.
During the meeting, developers from The Alexander Co. and members of the Town Square Board of Directors met with the Common Council to discuss the project in closed session.
Alexander Co. is a Madison-based developer that specializes in historic renovation, revitalization and adaptive reuse. According to a press release from Town Square, Alexander Co. has already completed feasibility research for the project.
The Common Council voted unanimously to continue working with Alexander Co. to develop a Tax Increment District (TID) and craft a developer’s agreement. It also approved an agreement with Vierbicher Associates, Inc. for Tax Increment Financing Services.
TIDs are economic development tools used by municipalities to promote redevelopment initiatives within a defined geographic area by capturing the extra dollars created within an area when development occurs to fund aspects of the project.
Additionally, PMA Professional Services presented a timeline for the creation of TID No. 6, which will encompass both the Safety Building and a site eyed for the possible expansion of Green Lake Dental.
The city’s financial advisor, Brian Della, said TID No. 6 would overlap on TID No. 4 because there aren’t enough years left on TID No. 4 to repay new developer incentives.
After coming out of closed session, Town Square board member Mike Havey gave a presentation to the Common Council regarding the proposed condo project.
He described the community center’s origins, noting a group of community organizers purchased the former county government building in 2012 from Green Lake County for $1.
Havey said an early study found four possible uses for the building. Two involved subdividing it into two parcels, while the best use was determined to be converting the former courthouse into a community center, he noted.
Since then, the Town Square Community Center campus has operated in the entire former county government facility, which costs approximately $70,000 annually, Havey noted.
Currently, he said Town Square has 40,500 square feet of underutilized and unused space in the former Safety Building.
Havey noted Town Square is looking to split the current facility into two parcels: The Safety Building and the Historic Building. The Safety Building was a 1985 addition to the original courthouse, which was built in 1898, he said.
Similarly, Town Square Executive Director Fran Hill said in a press release that the Safety Building has been a financial strain on the community center as parts remain unusable “without millions of dollars in renovations.”
“We’ve tried to make use of the spaces the best we could, but there are undeniable challenges,” she said. “We’ve been seeking to get someone interested in taking on the Safety Building for nine years.”
Havey said multiple ideas were proposed for the Safety Building, ranging from creating a casino to converting it into a multi-use office space.
Ultimately, Town Square determined the best use for the Safety Building would be to add to the city’s housing stock and partnered with Alexander Co. to redevelop the site, Havey said.
Alexander Co. plans to purchase the Safety Building from Town Square for $1 and convert it into condos, while Town Square tenants will be relocated to the Historic Building, he noted.
Havey said Alexander Co. has presented the Town Square board of directors with a letter of intent to purchase the building and the two parties are currently working out the terms of a contract.
“If we were to jettison off the Safety Building, which is what we're talking about doing, the Historic Building will house all of our programming, our offices and our current tenants in 19,500 square feet,” he said. “It’s quite a savings for us.”
He added the project aims to benefit the city by putting the Safety Building back on the tax rolls, increasing housing stock and boosting downtown foot traffic.
“We’re going to get butts into the seats in downtown Green Lake because people are going to live in downtown Green Lake in these condos,” he said.
The announcement from Town Square comes one month after Green Lake Dental owner David Castleberry approached the Common Council seeking development incentives to purchase and develop a vacant lot across the street from his business.
Castleberry plans to move forward with purchasing 559 and 565 Mill St., but anticipates postponing construction, according to Mayor Ray Radis.
Even so, TID No. 6 is intended to be a “mixed-use TID” that will “include six parcels,” according to the service agreement between the city and Vierbicher Associates.
The agreement said the process for creating the TID is expected to be completed in October with an effective creation date of Jan. 1, 2022.
Additionally, the city is expected to receive a draft project plan for TID No. 6 Thursday, July 22 and a Joint Review Board meeting is slated for Monday, Aug. 9 to discuss the plan, according to the timeline from PMA.
Della described the timeline for TID No. 6 as being very similar to that of TID No. 5, which was created to assist developers in revitalizing the Heidel House.
“It’s just a coincidence that the project is starting and finishing around the same time,” he said. “We’re moving quickly.”
While Heidel House developers received roughly $3 million from the city of Green Lake to assist in redevelopment, it remains unclear how much the city would provide in possible development incentives this time around.