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Wauwatosa panel approves use of public funds for parking at Innovation Campus

ABB, other developments at Innovation Campus would qualify

The Zilber development company plans to build this 90,000-square-foot office building for ABB in the Innovation Campus. The city plans to use tax-incremental financing to build a 100-space parking structure under the building.

The Zilber development company plans to build this 90,000-square-foot office building for ABB in the Innovation Campus. The city plans to use tax-incremental financing to build a 100-space parking structure under the building. Photo By Zilber Property Group

Feb. 5, 2013

A panel this week approved the use of city funds to pay for parking associated with private developments at Innovation Campus, which will include a $2 million structure for 100 cars under the proposed ABB building.

The Community Development Authority Monday approved a project plan amendment for Tax Incremental District No. 6, allowing property tax increments from new building at the park to repay the city for the construction of parking as well as roads and other infrastructure.

The amendment is a framework, and individual expenditures for parking, including for the ABB project, would be approved separately, said city Development Director Paulette Enders.

Proposed expenditures to rise

The potential expenditures financed by the taxing district rise under the proposal from $12 million to almost $19 million. Debt service, administrative time and other costs push the final potential expenditure to more than $30 million, to be repaid by 2037 at the latest.

City Administrator Jim Archambo said the city would like to close the district as early as possible.

City Finance Director John Ruggini has said that the ABB project, an Innovation Accelerator building under construction by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and likely residential development at the park will essentially pay for the construction of Discovery Parkway, which will connect Watertown Plank Road to Swan Boulevard.

Archambo noted that property tax increments will pay the entire cost of city construction, without a period at the beginning for taxpayer funding to close the financing gap until property tax collections increase.

Enders and Archambo emphasized the need for structured parking, costing $18,000 to $20,000 per stall, to minimize the use of surface parking, which would eat up green space at the park. The green space preserved under current plans does appear to be significantly greater than the space preserved under plans created in 2004 by Kubala Washatko Architects in an earlier design phase.

The space available at the park has been diminished by the state, which has claimed more than 18 acres along the western side for a high-speed interchange. This has had the effect of pushing the development parcels east and north, closer to the planned residential sector, consuming an open area or "viewshed."

In fact, subtracting the 11-acre butterfly habitat, the road and stormwater collection swales, the total developable space, residential and commercial, is less than 32 acres, including parking.

Loss of open space

Preservationist Barb Agnew said she supported structured parking, but was disappointed by the loss of the viewshed.

"Viewsheds were considered very important in the Kubala Washatko plan, and even by the UWM," she said.

Enders said that adjusting the layout of buildings to reopen that particular viewshed isn't possible because of the planned widening of Watertown Plank Road and the land claimed for the interchange.

Agnew's concerns were shared by Cheryl Nenn of Milwaukee Riverkeeper. She was critical of the loss of the open space and the mass cutting of trees on the site and said it was a continuation of a movement to destroy the natural character of the County Grounds, including the sale of many acres to Wisconsin Lutheran College for sports facilities several years ago.

"I don't believe we should be using public funds to destroy these important natural resource features," she said. "I feel that instead of making everything a flat pad we could have done something really cool by putting structured parking into some of the existing hills and topography that was there while still preserving viewshed and preserving habitat.

The Tax Incremental Finance District No. 6 amendment will go before the Budget & Finance Committee Feb. 12, and the Common Council Feb. 19. It will be reviewed by the city's standing Joint Review Board Feb. 26, made up of representatives of other taxing entities, including the Wauwatosa School District, Milwaukee Area Technical College, and Milwaukee County.

A planned unit development amendment request by Zilber (developer of the ABB project) will be going before the Plan Commission Monday.

 

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