St. Francis development on old city hall site gets TIF funding; offers new option for small business

St. Francis development on old city hall site gets TIF funding; offers new option for small businesses

Ted Matkom (left), a representative from developer Gorman and Company, presents a new concept to the city’s common council Nov. 28. This new proposal removes the 5,000 square-foot daycare option from the proposal due to traffic concerns and instead adds “incubator space” as a community amenity.(Photo: Erik S. Hanley/Now News Group)

ST. FRANCIS - Small business owners and those who need office space periodically may have a new, never-before-seen option coming to the city.

Gorman and Company recently expressed interest in developing the former St. Francis City Hall site, 4235 S. Nicholson Ave., with retail and multifamily. After getting input from the plan commission and residents, developers are changing their approach slightly.

Ted Matkom, a representative from Gorman and Company, presented the new concept to the city’s common council Nov. 28, which included what he called an "incubator space."

The new proposal removes the 5,000-square-foot daycare option because of traffic concerns and replaces it with 1,500 square feet of office space that could be reserved for blocks of time by residents — possibly for free or a nominal fee.

The reservations would likely be in hourlong blocks. Once office space is reserved, it could be accessed with a fob and/or a special code given when the registration is completed online. The offices would include internet as well as some basic office furniture, Matkom said.

“There’s an entrepreneurial seed in St. Francis,” he said. “We don’t have anything like this on any other project.”

Gorman and Company has built what it calls “live and work” units in the past in which a 200-square-foot portion of an apartment is set aside in the front for a small in-home business. A sign for the business is placed on the building above each door.

“The city had a little issue with the live and work concept,” Matkom said, which led to the development of this new concept.

The development itself, set to be called Nicholson Station, retains the 48 units that some took issue with at a previous plan commission meeting. Matkom said the building would look the same whether there were 48 units or fewer.

The council approved the initial planned unit development and zoning on a 4-3 vote. The approval commits the city to the 48 units. Mayor CoryAnn St. Marie-Carls broke the 3-3 deadlock with a vote in favor. Aldermen Ray Klug, Michael Sweeney, and Donald Bricker voted against.

After a closed session discussion, and contingent on Milwaukee County providing $500,000 in community development block grant funding, the council also agreed, 4-2 with Klug and Brickner against, to provide a $500,000 tax incremental financing grant for the development. In addition, the city will sell the land for $1, according to City Administrator Mark Johnsrud.

TIF districts reallocate funding from property taxes to encourage development and other investment within the district.

“In return, the development will guarantee $2.1 million of tax increment supported by WHEDA 9-percent tax credits,” Johnsrud said, adding the development must include the underground parking element as well as on-site underground stormwater management.

Resident Rick Grubanowitch expressed concern about the city moving quickly to accommodate the developer's Dec. 8 deadline to apply to the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) allowing for discounted rental rates. If the deadline is met, approval from WHEDA could come in March 2018.

“Why do we have to settle for fast-tracking another project?” Grubanowitch asked.

Grubanowitch also said the development's parking is not enough. Currently, the underground and surface lots add up to 1.89 spaces per unit.

If all approvals come through on the current schedule, the development will be finished in December 2019. It's expected the project would generate about $75,000 in taxes per year.

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