The Wauwatosa Common Council approved four separate actions Tuesday night to get development on Innovation Campus under way, and released the conditions under which the city agrees to provide $2.1 million in tax-financed assistance.
The UWM Real Estate Foundation and developer Zilber Ltd. asked for and received three specific requests on behalf of the first proposed private tenant, ABB Group, a Swiss power systems corporation.
First up and passed unanimously and without comment was a land division, essentially a permission to redraw the plat map certifying that the Real Estate Foundation could divide its property and put two acres up for sale to ABB.
Next came an amendment to the Building Planned Development adopted in 2010 to allow that two-acre tract to be elsewhere than originally intended.
It too passed, but with a dissenting vote from Ald. Tim Hanson, who has taken a vigorous stance against the revision of plans, in support of open space advocates who say it upsets the balance struck previously on development and green space.
Basically, all the building sites created in the original development plan were moved north on the County Grounds when the Wisconsin Department of Transportation altered its plans for the Zoo Interchange Rebuild.
A cloverleaf ramp was added to the Watertown Plank Road interchange, widening the DOT easement and pushing into the development zone.
The northernmost buildings in the revised plan would be much neared the historic Eschweiler Buildings and present a more crowded look, critics say. Also, stormwater management areas, called swales, designed to look like a natural part of the landscape, would be reduced in size and part of the functional water management placed underneath a parking lot instead.
City agrees to pay for parking
A third vote, on the most divisive issue, that of tax financing to pay for structure parking for ABB's building, also attracted no comment from anyone but Hanson, who again voted "no," and also had something to say.
Hanson called the public assistance "corporate welfare" that shouldn't be necessary "for a company with $40 billion in annual revenue."
The terms of the deal hinge on a previously passed amendment to TIF District No. 6, created to support public infrastructure on Innovation Campus, to also allow public funds for private parking facilities.
In exchange for $2.1 million in TIF funds to pay for 100 underground parking stalls for ABB's building, ABB had to agree to a 10-year initial lease, during which time it may not challenge the city-assessed value of its property.
One other interesting item in the terms: ABB agreed to donate to the city one electric vehicle charging station, to be installed at the city's cost.
Finally, in a swift and unanimous vote, the council accepted the rights-of-way for Discovery Parkway on Innovation Campus and for a feeder street to the Eschweiler Campus, to be named Eschweiler Drive.
With that, a very long process ends and another begins, as development is ready to move forward for UWM on the County Grounds.
Last week, after the several measures were passed in committee, Real Estate Foundation Executive Director Dave Gilbert waxed philosophical about it.
"It's been a long time coming," he said. "A different council. A different mayor – no, make that two mayors. A different county executive and County Board chairman. A different chancellor."
Reminded that when UWM's interest in the property first was made public, he had been asked how long it would be before the first development was completed, and Gilbert had said, "Ten years."
"Yeah," he said, "and it looks like we might beat that by about six months."