Port Washington – The deadline isn’t until shortly after the first of the year, but city officials have for months known the city-owned parcel marked for mixed-use along the bluff would attract plenty of interest.
At least four developers have indicated they will try to purchase the 44 acres of bluff land owned by the city south of the We Energies plant, including Ansay Development of Port Washington.
A request for proposals was recently approved by the common council that welcomes plans for both the city-owned land and an adjoining 11-acre parcel owned by We Energies.
Ansay was the first in line with plans for the property, which was purchased by the city more than 10 years ago when We Energies renovated its power plant.
Randy Tetzlaff, the city’s director of planning and development, told aldermen at the Oct. 4 meeting that even without advertising, the city has received calls from four or five Milwaukee area developers interested in the land.
In addition to Ansay, interested parties include a construction firm and a large consulting firm, Tetzlaff said.
“This is a prime piece of real estate,” said Alderman Dave Larson. “People are going to jump on this. It’s an outstanding opportunity for a developer.”
While We Energies has specified it would like commercial use on its portion of the land, the city’s parcel is designated for mixed-use development, according to Mayor Tom Mlada.
“This kind of competition and desire to invest resources in our city is such a positive thing that we had not seen in recent years,” Mlada said. “Now we have multiple developers proposing to partner with us based on a vision we have set forward for more residential development, which means really good things for the city.”
Density will be a focus as officials consider different options for the development, which will most likely not be higher than three or four stories. Some of the conversation regarding bluff development thus far has focused on the ownership element of things, which Mlada said he thinks is “respectfully overplayed.”
“The reality is when you look at various business models for development of this land, you’re talking about people who are investing in the community whether they rent or purchase,” he added. “Ultimately what it comes down to is what fits the space better
The request for proposals acknowledges that only 27.5 acres of the land owned by the city is developable.
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, according to the RFP.
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 RFP says.
With the land appraised at $65,000 an acre, the RFP says proposals need to include an offer to purchase as well as details regarding the costs associated with the development and the final value of the project.
Proposals are due 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 that would make presentations to the common council Jan. 18.
The council could approve a plan that night or at its next meeting.
Among the priorities for the aldermen moving forward is that construction must begin within a year of purchase of the city land, with a timetable for completion to be provided by the developer with their proposal.
“This is a really exciting thing for me and for all of us dating back to the process we started following in 2013 to put in place a vision that called for more residential density downtown that drives investment and proposals to our city,” Mlada said. “That is really good news for all of us.”