A Village apartment building proposal that has been debated for months by the Community Development Authority got a hearing before the entire Common Council on Tuesday in a discussion that turned on money.
"I think the reason you're here is (to see) whether or not we have the appetite to subsidize this project to the tune of $1.4 to $1.8 million," said Alderman Peter Donegan, addressing members of the CDA.
Donegan's 1st District includes the project site and neighbors on Church Street, on the other side of the block, who have objected to the proposal from the beginning.
The plan, for the so-called fire station remnant at 1463 Underwood Ave., originally called for a four-story building housing 36 apartments with first-floor retail.
Objections to the mass and height of the building from the Church Street residents motivated the CDA and the developer, Phelan/WiRED, to consider a three-story building that would have 30 apartments, also with first-floor retail.
Construction efficiencies built into a higher building meant that the four-story building would cost $8.2 million, while the three-story version with a different footprint would be almost the same, at $8.1 million, said city Finance Director John Ruggini.
More costly result
What changed more radically was the financing gap - presumably filled by the city - which went from $1.4 million for the bigger building to $1.8 million for the smaller one.
Ruggini said the city could provide as much as $1 million in aid to the project without fancy financing. Beyond that, he said, the city would have to create a tax-incremental financing district.
Donegan said public parking was a complicating factor, and the cost of acquiring an adjacent property, the Cody & Co. salon and its parking lot, which the Phelan plan includes, "is excessive." That cost, including buying the property, and moving the business twice, had been budgeted at $800,000 by Phelan.
"I'm just not a willing buyer to that seller, and it just might have to wait," Donegan said, referring to the project.
He gained adherents in council members Jim Moldenhauer and John Dubinski, and gave Cheryl Berdan doubts.
The council, still uneasy about agreeing to build a $2 million parking lot for ABB at Innovation Campus, was not in a giving mood, much less a TIF mood. A number of aldermen said their appetite for spending on the project ended at $1 million.
Alderwoman Kathleen Causier agreed with that, and said "We're a hot commodity right now," and shouldn't have to beg.
Amid the doubters, Alderman Jason Wilke said the original four-story proposal was a good one, and he supported building it.
The four-story plan had the advantage of a glass "jewel box" extension, ideal for a restaurant, for example, and that was part of the attraction for Wilke, and for Alderman Bobby Pantuso.
Pantuso said he was agnostic on the height of the building, but "the jewel box is what actually sold it for me."
That feature disappears in the three-story version.
To suggestions that the CDA start over, or not forge ahead at this time, Alderman Joel Tilleson, a member of the authority, said not going ahead was not an option.
The panel was close to decision on the project, he said, and could vote on it as early as at its Thursday noon meeting.
The council, which met as a Committee of the Whole, took no formal action.
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