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Vacant warehouse at new brew pub eyed for development

Stage, skate facility, 'zoo' possible Village Square uses

April 7, 2009

An abandoned warehouse next to the just-opened St. Francis Brewery and Restaurant may soon be converted into a $3 million retail development called Lakeside Village Square.

City officials and the Community Development Authority are reviewing cost estimates and tax revenue projections to determine how much the development might receive in tax-incremental financing.

The proposed warehouse conversion near the northwest corner of Kinnickinnic and Howard avenues would be the second phase of development for the site. The first-phase brew pub opened this week.

Tax-incremental financing, or TIF, is a mechanism that allows municipalities to borrow money to fund infrastructure improvements for an area that otherwise would be difficult to develop or redevelop. The increased property tax revenue from the improved land is then diverted from the tax roll to pay off the loan.

The warehouse property is currently assessed at $317,400.

The development is projected to generate about $60,000 in tax revenue per year, according to a document from Rick Michalski, managing member of Lakeside Village Square and Cupol, the operating firm for the brew pub.

City Administrator Ralph Voltner and Mayor Al Richards have talked about presenting Lakeside Village Square with a check for at least half of whatever tax increment is generated over a five-year period.

Michalski is seeking about $360,000 in TIF funding, the projected value of the tax increment over a seven-year period, according to his estimates.

Completion timetable

A provision requiring completion of the project within a certain time frame could also be added into the agreement, Voltner said.

"The brew pub and this building, if completed anywhere near what that picture looks like, would certainly encourage the rest of the street to remake itself," he said.

Earlier this year, the Common Council rejected a request to allocate $35,000 in TIF funds for the $2.4 million St. Francis Brewery and Restaurant because Michalski purchased the site from the city for $1 in exchange for him purchasing the abandoned warehouse for $325,000.

Development urged

Some council members said they would be more willing to approve TIF funding once Michalski and his partners proceed with the second phase of development.

If funding is secured, Michalski said construction would hopefully begin this summer.

"Right now, the brewery is supporting the entire development," Michalski said. "So the quicker we can get this done and get tenants in to help support with the costs, the better."

Possible uses include "a special care pharmacy" on the second floor, Michalski said.

A theatrical group has expressed interest in the building along with a group looking to construct a skateboard facility, Michalski said.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has discussed adding an agricultural department similar to a "zoo" where visitors could see the process of raising seafood from water to market, he said.

To accommodate the project, the city would expand the right-hand turn lane along Kinnickinnic Avenue, City Engineer Melinda Dejewski said. An entrance would also be created along Howard Avenue.

Chantel Balzell can be reached at (262) 446-6602.

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