Downtown Waukesha looks to be getting a bit busier in the coming months.
That's because the city's plan commission on Sept. 14 unanimously approved final site and architectural plans for a new apartment complex just west of Main and Barstow streets. The development, named Clearpoint, will be a five-story, 110,000-square-foot building housing 64 residential units.
Commissioners had a tepid reaction to the project, and delayed taking any action on it, when they reviewed preliminary plans for it late last month. However, their concerns appeared to be assuaged by the most recent plans.
Any lingering objections about the proposal – some nuanced landscaping recommendations from city staff and a concern voiced by an alderman about increased traffic – were few and relatively minor.
Plan commission members did not have much to say about the project itself, other than thanking developer Marcus Felker, of Sterling Investment Real Estate in Brookfield, for bringing the project to the city.
Plan commission approval of the design plans does not mean the project is a done deal. Various aspects of the development, such as how it will be financed, still require additional approval from city officials.
"We're not done yet," said Mayor Shawn Reilly, the commission's chairman. "But we'll keep working on it."
Plans call for the building to have 56 one-bedroom units and eight two-bedroom units atop two levels of indoor parking. The parking – 98 covered spaces – will be situated in the lower level and on the first floor, with residences on the second through fifth floors.
As part of those plans, the former Sweet Perfections bakery building, at the corner of Riverfront Street and Barstow, will be razed and a parking ramp will be constructed between the Tomorrow's Choice Family Resources building and the Riverfront and Barstow corner.
The ramp was somewhat of a issue for Alderman Erik Helgestad.
Helgestad, whose district includes downtown, voiced a concern about how the ramp would increase traffic on Barstow, particularly along the nearby stretch of that road (roughly between Broadway and North streets), which consistently congests with traffic.
Felker acknowledged the issue, but said there really wasn't much that could be done about it.
"That was the best (location for the ramp) we could come up with," he said.
The development team originally planned to use the former Sweet Perfections property as a guest parking lot, but now intends to create a decorative, terraced green space there instead.
Felker has applied for tax incremental financing district funding for the project, according to city staff. The development is valued at $13 million.
The fine-tuned details of that funding have not been discussed publicly, but will need to be approved by the city before construction on the Clearpoint project begins.
City Community Development Director Jennifer Andrews has said that if the city approves such funding, it would have to create a TIF district that includes the development. That is not uncommon.
Municipalities regularly create TIF districts to spur development in areas that need it. Officials assess the value of all the properties in the district when the TIF is created and set a base tax rate for those properties. As development occurs and the value of the properties increases, all extra taxes collected are to be spent only on projects in or affecting the TIF district, such as infrastructure improvements.
If ultimately approved, Clearpoint would be the latest in a recent spate of apartment developments proposed for or constructed in downtown Waukesha. Those apartment complexes have either already been built or are still being planned. The Main Street Apartments, just west of the Clearpoint proposal, started the trend in the late 1990s.