No reservations about downtown Reserve project
Approval of term sheet helps pave way for new mixed-use development

By Dave Fidlin - Special to Conley Media

June 19, 2019

WAUKESHA — A planned apartment-anchored mixed-use development on vacant downtown land along the Fox River received unanimous approval Tuesday as the Common Council had an opportunity to weigh in and vote on the proposal.

All 15 aldermen cast votes in favor of a so-called term sheet linked to developer Campbell Capital Group’s plans for The Reserve at Waukesha, a mixed-use development consisting of 186 apartments and 2,100 square feet of commercial space on 4.21 acres of vacant land at the southeast portion of East St. Paul Avenue and the southwest portion of NW Barstow Street.

The council’s vote comes on the heels of favorable reviews last week from several city panels, including the Finance Committee and Plan Commission.

Jennifer Andrews, community development director, said her office has championed Campbell’s plans for the site for a number of reasons, including an increase in residential density downtown and added revenue to the city’s tax rolls.

“It’s taking advantage of a really underutilized site in the central city,” Andrews said.

 The term sheet touches on several issues related to the proposed development, including the creation of a new rehabilitation-related tax-incremental financing, or TIF, district to help guide the project.

The plan in motion also calls for a $1.5 million grant to Campbell at the time of construction commencing and a $3.25 million grant as tax increment is generated from the project.

Based on projections, Andrews said the rehabilitation TIF district created is expected to have a 12-year lifespan, kicking in once ground is broken in 2021.

During deliberations, Council President Kathleen Cummings pointed out the length of a TIF district could last as long as 27 years, based on state law — a point Andrews confirmed.

“We could theoretically have this TIF open for 27 years,” Cummings said. “I’m not saying this is a bad project, but I do want to make sure we’re on the same page.”

In response, Andrews said, “We’ve closed many TIFs before their statutory life in this city.”

Alderman Daniel Manion, who in the past has spoken out against the use of TIF districts, said he was going to cast a favorable vote in this instance, pointing out his long desire to see the land reach its full potential.

“I’m not a fan of TIFs,” Manion said. “But I am a fan of this.”

Andrews said the council’s vote reflects a nonbinding agreement at this time.

“What it says is the city and developer are working toward the same agreement,” Andrews said of the term sheet.