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Mandel Group apartments move forward at Innovation Campus

July 9, 2014

Solidifying terms already approved for apartments at UWM's Innovation Campus, including $2.5 million in tax-incremental financing from the city, the community development committee approved a development agreement Tuesday, July 8, with the Mandel Group. The agreement still has to be approved by the common council.

"This development agreement basically memorializes terms approved previously and allows us to take various next steps, including securing our loan contributions," said Phillip Aiello, senior development manager at Mandel.

Aiello said Mandel plans to begin construction next month, for completion by the end of 2015. Aiello said residents could start moving into finished areas before construction is complete on all 192 units. The project is projected to cost at least $42 million.

The TIF funding will go toward an underground parking structure, which city officials say will help increase the density of development and therefore bring in more property tax revenue.

The agreement outlines two options for the Eschweiler buildings, both of which would preserve the administration building and allow residents of the apartments to use the space for offices and common areas.

Under one scenario, the administration building would also be occupied by a charter school, University Laboratory School, which could also use the other Eschweiler buildings on the campus. This would require the school district to approve an agreement with the charter school, which has so far faltered. Under the other option, the additional buildings would be demolished except for the foundations, which would become "walled gardens."

The agreement comes with several conditions, including landscaping and stormwater management plans. The CDC amended the agreement Tuesday to include an additional caveat — that the Habitat Plan Team created by the county have an opportunity to review the stormwater management plans and projected drainage patterns.

Barb Agnew, a member of the Habitat group, requested the addition to ensure the protection of monarch habitat and other natural areas on the grounds.

"The space is very small now compared to what it was," Agnew said, referring to the natural area. "We want to make sure it is successful."

Alderwoman Cheryl Berdan was the only committee member to vote against the amendment, saying she was "not comfortable" with giving the committee review, preferring to leave it in the hands of city staff.

But other members pointed out the city engineer would have final say on the stormwater plan and felt the group could give valuable feedback.

"This group has done a lot for this city, and I think it's a very important thing and the least we can do," Alderman Tim Hanson said.

The common council will likely vote on the development agreement at its next meeting July 15.

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