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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."

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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