Proposal the long-awaited second phase of embattled Mill Reserve development

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The long-awaited second and final phase of a downtown Waukesha housing development dogged by financial issues will include about 120 apartments, according to preliminary planning documents submitted to the city.

The proposal, which will undergo conceptual review at the city's Dec. 14 plan commission meeting, was submitted by John Ogden Jr., the developer behind the Mill Reserve Condominiums project, a row of high-end condos at St. Paul and Wisconsin avenues just north of the Fox River.

The apartments constitute the final phase of the Mill Reserve development, which until this summer was enmeshed in a lawsuit filed by the city. The city filed suit against Mill Reserve LLC last September alleging breach of a 2006 development agreement.

Both parties later reached a settlement agreement that the common council approved in July.

Waukesha Community Development Specialist Jeff Fortin said the proposal is on the plan commission's agenda for discussion only, not any approvals.

Diminishing value

According to the lawsuit, Ogden promised the city to increase the value of the Mill Reserve property and a second phase of development, but did not satisfy either of those conditions after the condos opened in 2008.

He said last year that "bad timing" and the city's push for higher-end condos put the project in a challenging predicament, especially during The Great Recession, which struck the same year the units went up for sale.

"It was a tough situation," Ogden said. "Real estate, especially condos, was struggling then. So it was very bad timing."

Terms of the settlement stipulated that Ogden would pay the city $150,000 – the city claimed it lost about $212,000 on the project – and, perhaps more importantly, finish the project he started.

Phase 2

According to planning documents, the $16.3 million second phase could include two four-story apartment buildings on 1.68 acres along the south side of St. Paul Avenue bordering the Fox River. The project will include 200 covered parking spaces for residents and 13 guest parking spots.

Ninety of the units will be one-bedroom apartments, according to the documents. The remaining 32 will be two-bedroom units. The units will range in size from about 675 square feet to 1,300 square feet.

Construction on the project is tentatively scheduled to begin next fall.

Each apartment complex will include a club room, a fitness room, common and lounge areas, underground parking and rooftop terraces with grilling stations, the documents said.

Downtown boom

The Mill Reserve Apartments project is the latest multi-family housing development proposed for or already constructed downtown, which has experienced a boom in such projects recently.

One apartment complex, called Clearpoint, secured $1.3 million in public financing earlier this year, and is expected to be complete by mid-to-late 2018. City staff said that project, at 220 W. Main St., was the first new construction project proposed for downtown since 2013.

Another project, the conversion of portions of the Waukesha County Museum, 101 W. Main St., into high-end apartments is also under way, but a timeline for that project has not been established.

Other apartment complexes downtown include the Prairieville Apartments, 260 South St.; the Kendal Lofts, 456 W. Main St.; and the River's Edge Apartments, 100 Corrina Blvd.

The Main Street Apartments, just west of the future Clearpoint complex, started the trend in the late 1990s.

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