Developer eyes $1 land buy from West Bend
Agreement envisions future development worth $7.8 million

By McLean Bennett

June 2, 2019

WEST BEND — City officials are considering selling a roughly 3.3-acre former factory site for $1 with plans that developers will someday deliver a new downtown-area hotel there.

A purchase agreement up for consideration at Monday’s Common Council meeting notes the buyer, Iowa-based Kinseth Hotel Corporation, would grab a piece of the former Gehl manufacturing property for the low price. Besides a hotel, the development is also expected to include offices in a separate building.

Mayor Kraig Sadownikow said the low-cost agreement isn’t unusual for redevelopment projects like the one envisioned at the corner of Water Street and Forest Avenue.

“That’s basically been the prototype for the downtown properties,” Sadownikow said Friday.

City Administrator Jay Shambeau said the agreement envisions a future development worth at least $7.8 million, a potential boon to the city.

“The goal is to get tax increment in those districts,” Sadownikow said, noting the  proposed construction would go inside a city tax incremental financing district and on a former manufacturing parcel that’s long sat dormant, but that’s surrounded by other new construction.

The development, located just south of the Museum of Wisconsin Art and just over the river from downtown West Bend, was first announced early last month. Monday’s purchase agreement would mark a next step toward completing a project that city officials have said could move quickly.

The mayor said Friday he was limited in what he could say about the proposal. He’s done consulting work in the past with both Kinseth and RafRad LLC, the other developer behind the initiative, and has had to step away from the project’s negotiations. Still, he noted construction could start by next spring if next steps progress on schedule.

Advanced building plans, including architectural designs and a formal development agreement, could come before city leaders later this year, he said.

A draft of the purchase agreement filed with the city before Monday’s council meeting notes the buyer has until the middle of November to wrap up due diligence on the property, though Shambeau said the developers may finish that work sooner, making a construction start date early next year a real possibility.

“I think it speaks volumes to the development of downtown West Bend that organizations as knowledgeable and sophisticated as RafRad and Kinseth are interested in downtown,” Sadownikow said. “I think it really bodes well for the momentum that any West Bender can see and feel down there.”

Previously, Shambeau has said the city could consider splitting in two the nearly 8-acre patch of land where Gehl once operated a factory. Doing so would put the hotel project on its own roughly 3.3-acre parcel, leaving a larger lot available for additional future construction.