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List of potential bluff land buyers grows PDF Print E-mail
Written by Kristyn Halbig Ziehm   
Wednesday, 05 October 2016 19:16

At least four developers now indicate they will try to purchase city-owned parcel earmarked for mixed use

At least four developers, including Ansay Development of Port Washington, have indicated they will seek to buy 44 acres of prime bluff land owned by the City of Port just south of the We Energies power plant, officials said Tuesday.

The comments came as aldermen unanimously approved a request for proposals from developers who want to buy both the city-owned land and an adjoining 11-acre parcel owned by We Energies.

Developers can seek to acquire just the city-owned land or both parcels.

The news of interest in the city’s land was welcomed by aldermen who earlier this year were negotiating a sale to Ansay Development for a corporate campus without any competition.

When talks with Ansay stalled this summer, the city broke off negotiations and decided to market the property, which it acquired more than a decade ago when We Energies renovated its Port plant. 

Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development, told aldermen Tuesday that even without advertising, the city has received calls from four or five Milwaukee area developers interested in the land.

One, he said, is a construction firm and another a large consulting firm that deals with many developers.

That news wasn’t entirely unexpected, aldermen said, because the land is exceptional.

“This is a prime piece of real estate,” Ald. Dave Larson said. “People are going to jump on this. It’s an outstanding opportunity for a developer.”

Ald. Mike Ehrlich, an architect, concurred.

“I think you’re going to see quite a bit of interest,” he said.

While officials have been planning to seek proposals for the city-owned property, they were surprised to discover that We Energies wanted to offer its property for development as well. 

The utility has specified that its land, which is just north of the city’s property, be used for commercial development, Tetzlaff said.

The utility is requiring that any construction on its land be completed within five years, he added.

The city’s parcel is earmarked for a mixed-use development — either a mix of commercial and residential uses or a combination of various types of residential development, according to the request for proposals.

In a nod to concerns voiced by Larson, officials agreed to add a note that any commercial development planned for the city-owned land should complement the businesses in downtown.

The request for proposals acknowledges that of the 44 acres owned by the city, only about 27-1/2 are buildable.

Development plans need to take into account the primary environmental corridors in the area and the fact that the bluff and ravines are prone to erosion, the request for proposals states.

The preferred development will provide public access to the bluff and scenic lake vistas and help connect the downtown to the Cedar Vineyard development, the request states.

Ald. Paul Neumyer said he is adamant that public beach access be provided with the development.

“I don’t want to see that (access) blocked,” he said. “I want people to be able to walk all the way to Cedar Vineyard.”

The city has worked hard to ensure the public has this right, he noted, and needs to continue that quest.

Proposals need to include a monetary offer to purchase — the land is appraised at $65,000 an acre, the request notes — as well as the costs associated with the development and the estimated final value of the project.

The request for proposals is expected to be distributed to interested developers beginning late this week.

Proposals are due in 90 days, on Jan. 6. 

A team consisting of members of the Design Review Board, Community Development Authority and Plan Commission, as well as an alderman and city staff members, would evaluate the proposals the following week, selecting as many as three finalists who would make presentations to the Common Council Jan. 18.

The council could approve a plan that night or at its next meeting.

The time schedule is aggressive, Tetzlaff said, but realistic.

“What’s the reason for being so aggressive?” Ald. Bill Driscoll asked. “Is this going to discourage anyone? This is such a prime piece of property, I want to make sure we give people enough time.”

Many communities only allow 60 days when seeking proposals, Tetzlaff said.

Grams said developers will tell the city if they believe the timeframe is too short and officials can make a decision then.

The city will market the property throughout the state and to a limited degree nationally, officials said.

A link to drone footage of the site taken by Ross Kroeger, the city’s engineering technician, will be used to give potential buyers a feel for the property, they said.

Noting that We Energies has a deadline for construction on its property, officials debated whether to impose a similar timeline for development of its land.

A deadline is important, aldermen agreed.

“It eliminates anyone buying it to sit on it for 15 years,” Driscoll said.

Aldermen agreed to specify that construction must begin within a year of purchase of the city land, with a timetable for completion of the project provided by the developer. 

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