TIF incentive approved on close, contested vote

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Aldermen narrowly approved public funding for a new downtown apartment complex on a divided vote during the Waukesha Common Council's Oct. 4 meeting, which lasted more than three hours.

The council voted 7-5 in favor of providing a $1.3 million tax incremental financing incentive to Brookfield-based developer Sterling Investments. Sterling is planning to build a five-story, 64-unit apartment complex, dubbed Clearpoint, at 220 W. Main St., just west of the Barstow Street intersection downtown. The city's finance committee unanimously approved the funding at a meeting late last month.

Aldermen Joe Pieper, Peter Bartles, Andy Reiland, Terry Thieme, Steve Johnson, Chris Hernandez and Bill Boyle cast the affirmative votes; Aldermen Aaron Perry, Danial Manion, Erik Helgestad, Eric Payne and Kathleen Cummings voted against the proposal.

Approval of the TIF financing represents perhaps the last major procedural hurdle for the Clearpoint project – the latest in a relatively recent spate of downtown apartment projects either planned or already constructed. The development is expected to be complete by mid-to-late 2018.

City Community Development Director Jennifer Andrews said the complex is the first new construction project proposed for downtown since 2013.

Differing opinions

Andrews, Pieper and City Administrator Kevin Lahner – all of whom supported the TIF incentive – said the complex would be good for downtown and could spur more development, possibly even attracting a grocery store.

The project, at capacity, would bring about 100 new residents into the area, dramatically increase tax revenue for the city and would allow for the downtown TIF district, No. 11, to close at least a year early, they said.

"We need to maximize the value of every piece of property within our community," Lahner added.

The TIF money will be paid out in installments of $1 million when the building is complete, and three $100,000 PAYGO payments annually from 2020-2022, Andrews said. The development is valued at $13 million.

Some aldermen saw it differently.

"I can't support it," Payne said. "I think we have more than enough apartments (downtown)."

"If this is a good project, it'll stand on its own," Cummings said. "It doesn't need the taxpayers' help."

Project details

According to planning documents, Clearpoint will 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 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.

Rents will range from $1,200 to $1,800 a month, according to developer Marcus Felker.

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