Only two developers interested in acquiring parking lot owned by city
Only two developers have indicated they want to obtain a Port Washington lakefront parking lot that city officials expected would generate far more interest when they made the controversial decision to sell the land earlier this year.
One of the developers, Chris Long of Madison, unveiled plans in February to create a Paramount blues-themed entertainment complex on the property, which is off Washington Street and adjacent to the north slip.
Long is scheduled to meet with Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development, on Thursday, July 2.
The other developer has not yet scheduled a meeting — a mandatory step in acquiring the land — Tetzlaff said Tuesday.
Port Washington officials agreed earlier this year to offer the parking lot to developers, saying they wanted to see a year-round destination created there to draw people to the downtown and lakefront.
It was a controversial decision, with some residents arguing that the city should not sell lakefront land but retain it for public use.
Officials noted that the city owns several miles of public lakefront and said development of this parcel could spur further redevelopment of the downtown.
The city sent out a number of requests for proposals to developers and advertised the property in several publications.
Although officials had hoped the parcel would attract a number of potential developers, it appears that only two may submit proposals.
“Initially there was interest from several potential developers,” Tetzlaff said, but they offered different reasons for not submitting proposals.
Some said they were apprehensive because of the controversy over the potential sale and the media coverage of the issue, he said.
Others noted they had other projects in the works or were too busy, Tetzlaff said, while some said the project was too small for them.
Still others indicated that the positive reaction to Long’s proposal gave him the inside track, Tetzlaff said.
City Administrator Mark Grams said he is a little surprised that so few developers are interested in the property.
“I think in the end the size of the lot is a detriment to anyone,” he said. “At first, I thought we might get more. But the more I thought about it, I thought it might be wishful thinking that we would get a slew of people.”
Mayor Tom Mlada said he, too, was surprised that there weren’t more offers.
“But to me, the important thing shouldn’t be the quantity of the proposals but the quality,” he said. “I’m more interested in having a home-run proposal.”
Developers are to submit their proposals for the parking lot land by Aug. 7. The city’s Community Development Authority will then review the proposals and make a recommendation to the Plan Commission, which would review the plans on Aug. 20.
The Common Council would then be expected to review the plans and select the developer on Sept. 1.
However, aldermen have said that if only one developer submits a proposal, the city will accelerate the process. That could mean making a recommendation to the Common Council in July.
Long, whose plan calls for a Paramount Blues-themed museum, restaurant, performance space and banquet hall to be built on the property, has said he wants want to complete the development in 2017 to celebrate the centennial of the founding of Paramount Records.