City Tries to Intercede with County on UWM's Behalf

With Eschweiler tract up in the air and UWM Innovation Campus project hanging in the balance, city reluctantly steps in to attempt to keep plan on track.

Would you, after agreeing to sell a property at a given price, agree to reduce that price when a broker for the buyer came back to you a couple of years later and said it might be difficult to make the next mortgage payment?

And might you do so if, by chance, you had some long-term investment in the successful outcome of that sale, rather than just walking away from it?

That was the difficult position a delegation from Wauwatosa found itself arguing Monday when it went before a Milwaukee County Board committee to suggest that UWM's difficulties in selling the Eschweiler Campus on the County Grounds might call for a reduction in the agreed-to selling price of the land.

City Administrator Jim Archambo, Economic and Community Development Director Paulette Enders and Ald. Brian Ewerdt appeared before the county's Economic and Community Development Committee.

After a presentation last Tuesday in a meeting of the Wauwatosa Common Council's Committee of the Whole, in which dire uncertainties about the future of the UWM Innovation Campus plan were raised, the city took the unusual step of acting as intermediary for the university with the county.

Archambo suggested that it was in everybody's best interest that the whole Innovation Campus plan succeed – and implied that without cooperation by everyone involved, it might not.

The county stands to receive a large and perpetual portion of property tax revenue from a successful Innovation Campus public-private project. The county's share of all property taxes collected by Wauwatosa is about 20 percent.

That will be far more in the long haul, the city argues, than the county would receive directly from the sale of the land – and certainly far more than the county or anybody will receive if UWM can't make it's next payment on the property and everything reverts to... nothing.

The UWM Real Estate Foundation in 2009 agreed to pay the county about $13.5 million for the 89-acre tract on the County Grounds, on a schedule through 2018. The first payment of $5 million was made, and a second of the same amount is due in February 2014.

Besides selling off parts of the property to private technology firms – UWM recently announced its first tenant, ABB of New Berlin – the university's real estate arm is trying to sell the Eschweiler Campus to Mandel Group for $4 million.

But under the sale agreement, only 25 percent of land sales proceeds go to UWM, with 75 percent going to the county, Ald. Ewerdt said. So UWM needs to sell the Eschweiler tract, make the ABB deal and also market as many as possible of six more development tracts on the parcel as possible in order to make its next payment to the county.

Ewerdt said Monday that county supervisors on the economic development committee were not particularly open to the idea of reducing the sale price of the Eschweiler plot to aid UWM.

"Supervisor (John) Weishan in particular seemed very much against it," Ewerdt said, and several others seconded him.

That's hardly surprising, except that Milwaukee County had originally agreed to sell the whole 89 acres for much less than it finally did.

County economic development staff negotiated a sale price for what was then to be called Innovation Park at $8.5 million. But at the eleventh hour, before the County Board could vote on the sale, then-board chairman Lee Holloway held up the measure and said he wouldn't let it come to a vote unless the price was raised by $5 million, to $13.5 million.

Ultimately, UWM agreed, and the sale went through. But UWM also did not get any support from the UW System Board of Regents and had to go it alone.

Wauwatosa now finds itself lobbying on UWM's behalf, and that irks Ald. Ewerdt.

"I'm not pleased that this has become Wauwatosa's problem, to see that this all works out," Ewerdt said. "Where is UWM in this? They're practically invisible – they should be out there in front of this, because this is their project."

Random Blog Commenter January 29, 2013 at 11:10 PM
The only thing true about city plans is that they are changed with new plans.
Dennis McBride January 29, 2013 at 11:13 PM
No one should be deriving pleasure from this. The City's request to have the County reduce its price was not done for UWM's benefit. Rather, it was made for the purpose of trying to save the Eschweiler Buildings by reducing the funding gap involved in the possible rehabilitation of the buildings. If the County refuses to reduce the price, UWM will still be able to sell the Eschweilers and the land on which they sit, but the funding situation will make it more difficult to find the money to save the beloved old buildings. Anyone who is interested in saving the Eschweilers should contact his or her County supervisor and the County Executive to ask the County to reduce its sale price. In any event, UWM will continue to develop its new campus.
Dennis McBride January 29, 2013 at 11:35 PM
The UWM campus plan preserves far more green space than the Kubala-Washatko plan did. Also, the K-W plan did not preserve the butterfly habitat, which UWM does. Also, people often misunderstand the purpose of TIF districts. They are not "subsidies" for private developers. Instead, through TIF funding, a city can redevelop land that otherwise would not be developed and, through increased taxes on the property, reap the benefit of the property's increased value. In this case, the land was worth nothing to the City, the County, and other taxing districts (MMSD, State of Wisconsin, Tosa School District) as government property, and will eventually be worth more than $100 million. Through a TIF district, the City and the developer form a partnership to increase the value of land. Both the City and the developer invest in the land so that it will increase in value and benefit both the City and the developer. When the City gains additional property value, it reduces the need to raise taxes on all of the (residential and commercial) property owners in the City.
Cheryl Nenn January 30, 2013 at 12:39 AM
Ald. McBride-- Saying that the new Master Plan preserves more land than the Kubala Plan is not factually correct. The Kubala Washatko Plan for the County Grounds, which my organization was on the Stakeholder Committee for over a period of several years, set what we all considered were reasonable goals for preserving the natural areas while still allowing for economic development. The EDZ or Economic Development Zone was only supposed to be 850,000 square feet. The Tosa Plan increased that developable area by 40% to 1,192,000 square feet of buildable space. This virtually assured that development of that much additional area would come into conflict with preservation of the natural features of the land. The City said that the development area needed to be increased to subsidize the costly restoration of the Eschweilers, and most of the community bought into that. Now, they are saying they still need to knock down all the buildings (b/c they have a fiscal gap), and that the County needs to cut their asking price? The County land sale agreement included preservation of the Eschweiler Buildings as well as natural areas, not only the 11 acre monarch area but preservation of all the important natural resource features on the 89 acres.
lu January 30, 2013 at 12:41 AM
I appreciate UWM's willingness to preserve the 11 acres. However, I was simply pointing out that this acreage was a land swap. Thirteen acres were set aside as a green space buffer (between the EDZ and the 55 acres) and it was exchanged for the the 11 acre habitat zone. I also understand the use of TIF's for blighted areas. The 12.5 million dollars was to support the infrastructure. It is now my understanding that TIF 6 is being amended to allow "subsidies" for a parking structure for ABB/Zielber. I believe you even indicated that you were not in favor of providing "incentives" for private developers.
Cheryl Nenn January 30, 2013 at 12:44 AM
Now the University wants the County to charge less for the land because they can't make their payment? Alarm bells should be going off to all Tosa Alders. Note that a large portion of natural area that was not even part of the EDZ and proposed to be protected in the Kubala Plan (the ravine on the eastern side of the site) was just clearcut over the last weekend, because UWM also got permission to move into that sensitive area because they were losing 17 acres to WisDOT for the Zoo Interchange. The original Kubala Plan did not slate any development for that WisDOT area due to the highway, wetlands, and natural features.So saying the City's plan is more protective of natural areas is not true. The percentages of development on the site may be less, because the site was expanded considerably. The Kubala Plan also stated that development should complement and incorporate natural resource features--not just grade everything flat to make parcels as cheap to develop as possible. There is nothing innovative or park-like about this business park that was sold to us as an engineering campus.
Random Blog Commenter January 30, 2013 at 03:24 PM
It looks like conservancy groups will have an opportunity to put their resources where their mouths are with regard to saving the Eschweilers and contributing to the funding gap in this development, as well as using conserved land for education and interpretation, albeit not be their organization. http://www.wauwatosanow.com/news/forest-exploration-center-in-wauwatosa-intent-on-using-eschweilers-mr8ii4f-188907571.html Will these groups step up and help the FEC become reality or is it more important for them to protect their chunk of organizational turf? The ball will soon be in their court.
lu January 30, 2013 at 03:47 PM
The conservancy group has been working very closely with FEC folks and feel this is a wonderful use of the Eschweilers...a school re-purposed as a school.
Random Blog Commenter January 30, 2013 at 04:14 PM
The blame is firmly on UWM for not driving the bargain that I described. Paying for conservation easements is not a new concept and it was a major error on UWM's part not to utilize it. With that said, a very small minority of very vocal people with no skin in the game think they can drive the bus. I am simply identifying a way for such folks to legitimately get in the driver's seat. The other stakeholders then would be more willing to work with them.
Random Blog Commenter January 30, 2013 at 04:17 PM
So when the FEC announces a fundraising drive, Ms. Nenn's group and others will be front and center in the effort? I hope that you are correct. That would be a positive action for all of Wauwatosa.
Christopher Washburn January 30, 2013 at 04:35 PM
Random Blog Commenter: It is hilarious to suggest that City residents who are on the side of conservancy have 'no skin in the game'...I think residents do have 'skin in the game,' but nice try. Please focus on the original deal that did not have 'conservation folks' on the financial hook for the poor planning of the developers. Ald. McBride also should not try to create a 'red herring' by saying that people are 'deriving pleasure' from this. This is not personal, it is a business deal 'gone bad.' The developers didn't do their 'due diligence' in regard to costs. Taxpayers should not have to pay for their mistakes. The deal should be off (and please don't pull out the Ikea 'red herring' again, Ald. McBride --or share with the Public all the details of when Ikea proposed to buy the land). Thank you.
Random Blog Commenter January 30, 2013 at 05:09 PM
skin in the game = financial input. There is a significant difference between people in a community who may side with an issue and those who run issue organizations. From the article I posted, such organizations and the private residents who belong to them will have a financial opportunity to impact this project for the benefit of conservation. It would be good if they stepped up when that opportunity fully presents itself. Do you not agree? All city residents will have skin in the game if their tax dollars are used to fix this deal. I suspect if that happens then Tosa residents, as a whole, may have different concerns about this development than that of conservancy organizations. Perhaps they will be the same -- our elected officials will have fun finding out. I will admit that I am being provocative with regard to alternatives to a deal that is already done. However, conservationists citing a now-replaced K-W plan aren't addressing the current issue either.
Christine McLaughlin January 30, 2013 at 05:40 PM
One of the points of disagreement hinges on this statement: "through TIF funding, a city can redevelop land that otherwise would not be developed and, through increased taxes on the property, reap the benefit of the property's increased value." That this land would not otherwise be developed is questionable. You have stated that IKEA might have gone there. It's arguably the most desirable chunk of land for development in this county. On a different note, and an easier to answer question for Alder McBride: what happens with the anticipated future tax revenues when a building owner goes belly-up or just moves? Do they incur an obligation to keep paying? Or is the city stuck with empty buildings AND no tax revenue?
Cheryl Nenn January 30, 2013 at 05:43 PM
I normally don't respond to people like "Random Blog Commenter" who have "no skin in the game" by not even using their real name. I will say that my group, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, has likely spent tens of thousands of dollars in staffing costs to attend planning meetings for the County Grounds, going back to the KW Plan and the more recent UWM Master Plan for the NE Quadrant. That is real money that we need to fundraise for. To be clear, this area was formerly public land (e.g. already protected) and that is being privatized for a supposed Engineering Campus that was supposed to provide a public good but increasingly looks like a private office park gone bad. To say that the conservationists should not fundraise to justify protecting some of the natural areas is outrageous. If UWM wants to put on a conservation easement, we would be more than happy to help them with that process. That will reduce the taxes on the land though, which I'm guessing Wauwatosa and the County wouldn't be happy about given their substantial TIF funding to this project. If you are suggesting that we "buy" the monarch habitat so UWM can make their land payment, then I will say that we have tried to get land trusts interested in this site unsuccessfully but will keep trying. But again, we are not the landowner and this isn't our decision. We would also be happy to help fundraise for the FEC, but it should not be the responsibility of citizens and environmental groups to save this sinking ship.
Christine McLaughlin January 30, 2013 at 06:01 PM
And one more question: Alder McBride wrote "In this case, the land was worth nothing to the City, the County, and other taxing districts (MMSD, State of Wisconsin, Tosa School District) as government property, and will eventually be worth more than $100 million." So are you saying that the City is nothing but a taxing entity? I don't think that's what you believe, but it would be important to share how you balance your thinking about greatest taxable use against all the other kinds of value there are out there.
Random Blog Commenter January 30, 2013 at 07:54 PM
Staffing costs are simply that. Staffing costs. They are not contributions to project financing or project outcome -- they are overhead. I wish your organization the best of luck with helping out the FEC with fundraising, which is what I have been advocating the whole thread. Be the solution.
Jonathan Ackley January 30, 2013 at 08:19 PM
http://dailyreporter.com/2009/03/27/city-county-question-uwm-land-sale/ “We were looking for ways to use those buildings in a manner sensitive to the historic nature of the structures,” he said. Luljak said the university has no interest in commercial development on the site. “The land is too valuable for that,” he said.
Christopher Washburn January 30, 2013 at 08:24 PM
Random Blog Commentor: Here is a novel solution -- have the creators of the problem "Be the solution" by sticking with the promises of their contract with the Government (please don't try to shift the problem or the solution onto Conservationists, which is what I have been advocating the whole thread --Maybe you will actually read this comment and stop obfuscating). Thanks again.
Katherine Collins February 01, 2013 at 05:47 AM
Allow them to default on the deal and keep the Eschweiler Buildings intact. How horrifically embarrassing... Tosa going to the County to plead to be taken for a ride! I've heard it all.... no, I'm sure it will get even better down the road... 'well, we just can't afford to keep those butterflies around' What next? It just gets crazier by the minute! Please stop wiping out Wauwatosa's history. UWM already has a campus, in fact several, on which it can build its new building. Sure, we can build this tax base but by getting rid of what makes this Wauwatosa? We are already over-assessed but not complaining because we love(d) the quaint, family-oriented community that preserved its greenspace and valued the people of the community... look at European communities that have retained their buildings for 500+ years. Eventually our property values will crash by selling out what Wauwatosa is. Unfortunately Wauwatosa will soon look like any other urban community within Milwaukee County and lose the character that brought us back home and kept us here. We are one household of many that will be gone and no longer multi-generation Tosans. Our families donated huge plots of land to give you Wauwatosa. How many of us have children that have seen this and left? Our 100+ year run has ended. Treasures need to be preserved and cannot be regained. Open your eyes, REPRESENTATIVES, look what you're doing. Please keep what we have left of Wauwatosa, in tact.
Deb Strzelecki February 01, 2013 at 05:33 PM
"Discovery Parkway." LOL. Sounds like some feature in Disney Land. Not a wasteland of acres and acres of sterile concrete.
Deb Strzelecki February 01, 2013 at 05:38 PM
I bought my house 20 years ago to be near the County Grounds as they used to be. No more. Traffic congestion, exhaust fumes, noise and light pollution, not to mention the rising crime rate in Tosa. Four more years till early retirement and I'm way gone from the Tosa area. Tosa doesn't give a $*** about its residents. Just wants to make it all nice and easy for commuters from Waukesha and Lake counties while the Tosa residents mop up the mess.
Cassandra February 01, 2013 at 06:07 PM
Once again, alderman, you are shirking your responsibility for saving those buildings and trying to shuffle off blame onto some other entity. Two years ago, you were all about saving the buildings, now you are all about supporting developer subsidies at the expense of the buildings and natural habitat. And don't try to claim that giving ABB funds from the TIF isn't a developer subsidy. The question that should be asked is why you have turned your back on a community that supported saving the buildings and habitat in favor of selling out public interest to developers. You should be taking the lead to save these buildings, not coming up with more excuses.
Cassandra February 01, 2013 at 06:14 PM
You are cored that all city residents have skin in the game by providing millions of TIF dollars to support this project. That included $12.5 million to provide the basic infrastructure needed to make the project possible. Taxpayers approved the use of those funds recognizing that they would support the public purpose of saving the buildings and the natural areas NOT providing subsidies to developers. If we are going to talk about skin in the game, why don't we start comparing UWM's skin in the game or the other developers. And let them come up with the $12.5 million on their own.
Deb Strzelecki February 03, 2013 at 04:46 PM
Something about the spirit Tosa that is SO rapidly dimishing, if not already far gone. Maybe something about the thousands of mass graves of the destitute out at the Grounds being buried under tons of landfill since 2006 so they could be built upon?
Deb Strzelecki February 03, 2013 at 04:47 PM
I moved to this area 20 years ago becase of the history and feeling like Tosa was such a literally rooted community, bothwith families and trees. So many century old trees have been clearcut in Hart Park and the County Grounds this past decade, it's sickening. Both are becoming bland wastelands of of mowed grass and no urban wildlife. I remember when the County Ground were a major stopping off area for SO many warblers and neotropical almost endangered songbirds during thier springtime migrations. The arrogent Americans always liked to place the blame on the rainforest clearcutters. HELLO. The clearcutters are alive and well in our own backyard. Why the insanity and rush to destroy? Now, it seems like Tosa is welcoming development to become just another offramp parttime camp of commuters that come here, dump a few bucks, and leave their garbage for the residents to deal with. Never mind the residents. Hello, Milwaukee Cesspool West: crime, traffic congestion, stifling exhaust/air, light, noise pollutiom. Oh well, I guess the Tosa powers that be, assisted by our current governor that never turned his back on a six figure campaign donation he couldn't turn down, are whoring out their souls to Waukesha and Lake counties and cheap ugly development... that is, if they have any souls left.
Deb Strzelecki February 03, 2013 at 04:57 PM
I remember the great MCSO deputies in the 80s amnd 90s that actually used to stop and talk to people out at the Grounds and do LE. Almost all of them have since retired. There is NO LE out there anymore. Eschweiler buildings being constantly broken into and drunken 4 wheelers spinning their tires just to destroy the area. Not to mention whatever driving out there at at least 50 MPH on the old 87 St. east to west access road that Ament had built. Yes, I am state certified radar and laser certified, so have a pretty good estimate on a vehicle's speed.
Deb Strzelecki February 03, 2013 at 05:14 PM
I remember when the Tosa Players were evicted from the Plank Rd. School. I also remember when the great deputies out at the Grounds were wondering WHY that school couldn't have been used for the MCSO recruit and in service training facility. It had a central location a block away from the patrol hub at the Zoo Interchange and a great gym and pool. No. I guess Milwaukee County was so flush with dollars, after constantly complaining how broke they were, so MCSO could justify spending millions on a brand new facilty on the grounds of the old HOC. The MCSO has become a shadow of what it once was as the major LE in MKE County, but somehow, the political powers in MKE County could justify millions for a nice, shiny, facility. The MPD and MFD are using a facilty built in the early 60s for a Christian school for wayward girls as their main training academies for the past 30 to 40 years. Sorry, MCSO has become mostly obsolete in MKE County. But, somehow, MCSO, "needed" a multimillion dollar training facility? LOL.Politics, politics.
Deb Strzelecki February 03, 2013 at 05:16 PM
Before the area was clearcut, it was amazing the amount of life our there. Get out of your car once in awhile and WALK.
Katherine Collins February 03, 2013 at 06:36 PM
UWM defaults on the deal. I'm certain that Wauwatosa will come up with the funds to save this last greenspace. Our Girl Scouts grew thousands of pounds of beautiful healthy food for the food pantry here. This is the only space left to take my dogs for a walk within the area. There is plenty of open space, and old buildings that can be demolished, across the street in Innovation Park that can be developed. It makes absolutely no sense to strip this last pristine beauty forever. 'They paved Paradise and put up a parking lot.... Don't it always seem to go that they don't know what they've got Til it's gone....' My heart's just breaking.
Katherine Collins February 03, 2013 at 06:55 PM
Esquire McBride. Please define value for us... I truly believe that monetary value is not the only thing you recognize and if you went for a walk on the grounds with your family and took a few steps back from the web you've gotten yourself caught up in in the political scene you'd recognize and remember what is valuable in life.


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