Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 03 June 2015 20:32
Port officials reaffirm commitment to Cedar Vineyard development, continue to prepare financing district
Port Washington officials on Tuesday reiterated their support for the proposed Cedar Vineyard project, with Mayor Tom Mlada issuing a letter expressing the city’s continuing commitment to moving plans for the south-side subdivision forward.
The city is moving ahead with the tax incremental financing district needed to pay for much of the infrastructure to support the development, having recently received final design and cost estimates for the work, City Administrator Mark Grams told the Common Council.
“Now, I think we’re in the ballpark with the TIF financing,” he said. “We’re still fine-tuning some of the numbers.”
The TIF district is likely to be finalized in July or August, Grams said.
In addition, he said, the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee added $33 million to the stewardship grant program — a program Gov. Scott Walker had proposed effectively ending all funding for at least the next decade.
“How that affects our project, we don’t know,” Grams said.
Ozaukee County and the City of Port Washington, along with the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, are seeking a grant to help buy 101 acres of the 227-acre Cedar Vineyard property to create a nature preserve that would encompass the edge of the bluff and Cedar Gorge.
Shawn Graff, director of the Land Trust, and Andrew Struck of the Ozaukee County Parks and Planning Department “feel really good about our ability to procure some of those funds,” Mlada said.
Those two components — the TIF district and commitments to buy the nature preserve land — are the major hurdles to be completed before the Highview Group can buy the land for the project, developer Tom Swarthout, president of the Highview Group, told aldermen.
“There’s been a lot of work done behind the scenes,” Swarthout said. “We have a financial partner in place.”
A market study has been completed, he said, and it shows that the 73 home sites could be purchased within three years instead of the four years indicated in a preliminary analysis.
“The market is coming back in a big way,” Swarthout said.
Nine people have reserved lots in the subdivision even though there’s been no advertising of the project, Swarthout added. Three of the potential buyers are from out of state, he said, and the buyers span the ages, ranging from a family with an 18-month-old child to a couple in their early 70s.
Steve and Maria Johnson, who own Parallel 44 Vineyard and Winery in Kewaunee and Door 44 Winery in Sturgeon Bay and would create the vineyard and winery that encompasses much of the Cedar Vineyard development, have told him they anticipate the Port Washington facility would generate more income — and sales tax revenue — here than in their other wineries, Swarthout said.
“No one is more anxious to start moving dirt and close on a property,” he said.
Once the TIF vote is taken and the county votes to commit funding for the nature preserve — something county leaders have said will occur after the TIF is approved — Highview Group will purchase the property from Waukesha State Bank.
“We’d like to get a vote as soon as possible,” Swarthout said, adding he could envision closing on the land purchase as early as July.
Waukesha State Bank acquired the land after foreclosing. VK Development, the previous owner, had proposed a massive development on the property more than a decade ago but never moved forward with its plans.
The city and Swarthout were expected to update the Ozaukee County Board on the subdivision work Wednesday.
“We’ve got a lot of people over there who support this and want to keep it moving forward,” Ald. Dan Becker, who is also a county supervisor, said. “I like that progress continues to be made, the dominoes continue to fall.”
He noted that the county has enough sponsors of the original resolution supporting purchase of the nature preserve to pass the funding measure.
“If you want to talk about a return on investment, there’s nothing that comes close to this,” Becker said, citing the fact the project is sensitive to the environment, ensures public access to the beach, offers high-end, low density development and will bring in significant sales tax revenue.
“Truly, we can think of no better project to serve as a gateway to our great city,” Mlada said. “This is not your ordinary residential development.”
Written by KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Wednesday, 27 May 2015 17:39
Requests for proposals for Washington St. parcel resume after completion of environmental study
The effort to sell a city-owned lakefront parking lot in downtown Port Washington will begin in earnest again next month.
Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development, told the Community Development Authority last week that a request for proposals for the property off Washington Street is being finalized now that a second-phase environmental study is complete.
Konicek Environmental, the firm that conducted the study, found “a little of this, a little bit of that,” Tetzlaff said. “It’s not alarming.”
The firm recommended that any soil that is disturbed by construction — perhaps of a lower level — be cleaned, he said.
But, Tetzlaff said, company officials don’t recommend that the city clean up the site.
“Why would the city want to do something? If we don’t get a buyer, it’ll stay a parking lot,” he said.
The amount of cleanup recommended will depend on how much excavation a buyer plans to do, Tetzlaff added.
Because of that, Konicek recommended that the city tell potential developers of its findings and let them decide what to do, he said.
“It’s not as big a deal (to clean a site) as it used to be,” Tetzlaff said. “It will likely be reflected in the price.”
A downtown redevelopment plan created last year earmarked the parking lot at the north end of the north slip for a destination development to draw people to the lakefront.
But a number of residents opposed the city’s plan to sell the lot, saying it is invaluable lakefront property that should be kept for the public.
Officials note that the city owns miles of lakefront land. This site, they said, offers the community the opportunity to make property available for a project that could spur redevelopment throughout the downtown.
The plan to sell the lot seemed to be on the fast track until officials decided to conduct environmental studies on the property, which was home to industrial buildings — most notably the Wisconsin Chair Co. — for decades before it became a parking lot.
While officials originally hoped to receive proposals from developers by June 5, Tetzlaff told the CDA Monday that the new timetable calls for the Common Council to approve the request for proposals on June 2.
The request would then be sent out by June 5, with a presubmission meeting with developers held on June 29, Tetzlaff said. Proposals would be due Aug. 5.
The CDA would vet the proposals and make a recommendation by Aug. 17, with the Plan Commission reviewing any preliminary plans and designs for the development on Aug. 20.
Negotiations with the developer would be held after that, with the preliminary date for Common Council action on the sale coming on Sept. 1, Tetzlaff said.
John Sigwart, 230 Theis St., asked the CDA if it would be willing to move the timetable up if only one developer attended the presubmission meeting, which officials have said would be mandatory.
Developers Chris Long of Madison and Gertjan van den Broek of Port Washington have already approached the city about the land, saying they want to create a Paramount Blues-themed museum, restaurant, performance space and banquet hall on the property.
Their proposal was enthusiastically greeted by aldermen, and Sigwart noted that the duo wants to complete their development in 2017 to celebrate the centennial of the founding of Paramount Records.
Accelerating the timetable could help them meet that goal, Sigwart said.
This would be possible, the CDA members agreed, but they said they expect more than one developer to seek to buy the land.
“I think it’s in the city’s best interests that there be more than one,” member Jason Wittek said.
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV
Wednesday, 20 May 2015 18:48
C.D. Smith Construction chosen by PW-S board to manage $49.4 million improvement initiative
The Port Washington-Saukville School Board decided Monday to enter into a contract worth more than $2 million with Fond du Lac-based C.D. Smith Construction Inc. to manage its $49.4 million school improvement initiative.
The board chose C.D. Smith over Milwaukee-based CG Schmidt to serve as the construction manager for a complex $45.6 million Port Washington High School project that will include demolishing and rebuilding part of the school, the construction of two additions and renovations throughout the remainder of the school, as well as a $3.8 million addition to Dunwiddie Elementary School.
School officials considered the selection of a construction management firm a critical early step in the process, especially since the firm will oversee the day-to-day work on a high school project that is to span nearly four years and be done while students are at school.
Cost was a significant factor, but with both firms proposing similar fees and charges, school board members chose the firm they said would be the best fit for the district.
Several board members noted that C.D. Smith is currently working on a project in the Lomira School District that, although about half the cost of the Port High project, is similar because it entails demolishing and rebuilding part of a school.
“It’s appealing to me that C.D. Smith will be coming off a build so similar to ours,” board president Carey Gremminger said.
C.D. Smith proposed a construction management fee of $685,000 compared to CG Schmidt’s fee of $710,921.
The most expensive aspect of the contract, however, is the general conditions charges — hourly rates for on-site supervisors and, in some cases, charges for equipment and supplies ranging from portable toilets and fire extinguishers to fencing and mobile offices. District officials estimated the general condition charges of C.D. Smith will total $1.4 million while CG Schmidt’s charges would be $1.3 million over the duration of the project.
When additional fees and performance bonds proposed by each company are considered, C.D. Smith’s proposal was about $10,000 less expensive, school officials estimated.
Of particular concern to school officials was how each firm proposed handling change orders. CG Schmidt proposed a 1.69% fee on work outside of the original proposal while C.D. Smith proposed no additional fee, school officials said.
If, for instance, the project were finished under budget and there was money remaining to make “project enhancements,” CG Schmidt would charge a 1.69% fee to manage the additional work while C.D. Smith would not as long as the overall cost of the project did not exceed the budget, Supt. Michael Weber said.
“It was unusual to see a percentage fee for change orders, and it’s something we spent a lot of time figuring out,” he said.
The board is expected to approve a contract with C.D. Smith, as well as an agreement with Bray Architects, which the board decided in April to hire without seeking competitive bids, next month.
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV
Wednesday, 13 May 2015 19:39
Former teacher, board member tells PW-S officials they should hire clerk to supervise $49.4 referendum project
The Port Washington-Saukville School Board plans to select a construction management firm to oversee its $49.4 million school improvement initiative next week, but in the interim it received some advice from an architect who is no stranger to the district.
Barrett Genson, a former Port Washington High School teacher and school board member who most recently served as director of facilities planning during the development of Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, Fla., told school officials during Monday’s board meeting that they should hire a clerk of the works to oversee the project and represent the interests of the board and taxpayers.
“Hiring someone independent of the architect and the construction manager who works just for you may alleviate some of the consternation the public, including the Common Council president, has expressed about how the architect was hired,” said Genson, who added that he essentially served as a clerk of the works during construction of the Florida university.
Genson was referring to criticism the board has received for deciding to hire Bray Architects, the firm that conceived the most expensive referendum in the history of the district, to design improvements at Port High and Dunwiddie Elementary School without seeking competitive bids.
Last week, Ald. Dan Becker, president of the Port Washington Common Council, said the school board’s actions “didn’t pass the smell test.”
Genson agreed, saying, “It doesn’t seem right to hire an architect for a $49.4 million project without going through a selection process.”
A clerk of the works, who would report directly to the board and administrators, would ensure the additions and renovations planned for the two schools are built to specifications and are completed within the budget and on time, Genson said.
In addition, a clerk of the works would settle any disagreements between the architect and construction manager, something that’s important given the complexity of the high school project, he said.
“Forty-nine million dollars of construction is enormous,” Genson said. “You’re going to have a tough row to hoe accomplishing this while keeping school open.
“On a project of this size, there are going to be conflicts, and you’re going to want a clerk of the works to represent you and settle them.”
Supt. Michael Weber, however, said it will be the job of the construction manager to oversee day-to-day construction and report directly to school officials.
“That’s what we’re hiring a construction manager for, but we appreciate his (Genson’s) willingness to be available to help us,” Weber said. “Someone with Barrett’s experience will be valuable.”
The board is currently considering proposals from two finalists for the construction manager job — Fond du Lac-based C.D. Smith Construction Inc. and Milwaukee-based CG Schmidt.
Administrators and school board member Marchell Longstaff recently toured a CG Schmidt job site at Hartford High School and a C.D. Smith project in the Lomira School District.
“Both companies are very professional,” Weber said. “They truly are the owner’s person; they answer to the owner, not the architect.
“We can’t go wrong with either of them.”
School officials have also made progress in clarifying the fees proposed by each of the firms.
CG Schmidt has proposed a management fee of $692,647 plus 1.69% on change orders.
C.D. Smith has proposed a fee of $685,000 with no additional charge for change orders.
Less clear, however, are the general condition charges — hourly rates for various supervisors and, in some cases, job site equipment such as portable toilets and on-site offices — which hinge on the duration of the project. Conceptual plans estimate it will take four years to complete the high school work.
The board met in closed session Monday to develop a negotiating strategy and expects to have final proposals to choose from when it meets Monday, May 18.
In related news, administrators said Monday that quick action by school officials to borrow $33 million of the $49.4 million less than two weeks after the referendum has saved about $900,000 in interest costs. That’s because interest rates have increased since then.
Fearing that would be the case, Director of Business Services Jim Froemming worked with the district’s financial firm, Baird, to finalize details for the sale of bonds prior to the referendum, so if the referendum passed the board could act quickly to take advantage of low interest rates.
“All of us knew how tenuous the market was,” Weber said. “Almost immediately after the referendum we were able to lock into a 3.2% rate.”