The developer for the first private business project at UWM's Innovation Campus on the County Grounds is seeking $2 million in additional city assistance to place below-grade parking under the building.
Zilber Ltd. and ABB Group, the company that will occupy the site, filed an application for tax incremental financing (TIF) assistance before meeting in a closed session Tuesday with administrators and elected officials to discuss the details of their proposal.
City officials had signaled in a Common Council meeting a week before that Zilber was expected to ask for TIF assistance and that it would be to support structure parking — it just wasn't said how much.
City Development Director Paulette Enders confirmed Thursday morning that Zilber is asking for $2 million in public TIF funding and that the money would go into indoor, underground parking at the building.
Enders said the TIF request is all for ABB's building and not associated with a free-standing parking structure identified in the Innovation Campus master plan that would also serve ABB and other future tenants.
If Wauwatosa agrees to the request, it will require amending the TIF District 6 plan created in 2010 to provide roads and utilities to Innovation Campus. That plan called for borrowing about $12.5 million to build Discovery Parkway, access drives and to extend utilities throughout the site.
This will likely not be the last time the city will asked for more TIF support in the area, either. If Mandel Group finally makes a formal proposal, it is expected to request at least $2 million to fill a financing gap for a residential development on the Eschweiler Campus.
Also, in last week's discussion of TIF funding plans, City Administrator Jim Archambo suggested that other private developers signing on to Innovation Campus sites would likely want support for structure parking as well.
ABB's proposed building, at three stories and 95,000 square feet, would house 350 employees and would alone need 405 parking spaces, Dan McCarthy of Zilber Ltd. said Tuesday.
Of those, 100 spaces would be beneath the building, the rest on a surface lot that totals about 360 stalls. But that lot would be later be shared with the tenants of two more projected buildings. Zilber hopes to be chosen as the developer for those as well, McCarthy said, and is planning a 360-stall detached parking structure to accommodate those tenants.
All told, if all three buildings were built and tenanted, they would require nearly 1,000 parking spaces.
The biggest challenge the city faces in amending TIF 6 funding upward now is the uncertainty of Mandel's proposal for the Escweiler tract. That property lies in both TIF 6 and TIF 2, and the city was relying on a successful development there to open up the surplus in TIF 2.
Tuesday night, City Finance Director John Ruggini said that the city was carrying over into 2013 nearly $5 million in TIF 2 funds budgeted for Discovery Parkway. But those funds can only be spent to aid development on TIF 2 property by providing access to it. If no development occurs, that money remains locked.
Discovery Parkway, however, is already under construction and must be finished by late summer of this year under an agreement with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. The road is intended to serve as an alternate route connecting Swan Boulevard and Watertown Plank Road traffic during the reconstruction of the Zoo Interchange.
The dilemma, then, is that the city is fully committed to spending more than $12 million this year, but nearly half of that money was supposed to come from TIF 2. Without TIF 2 funds, another source would have to be found to make up the difference — presumably by amending TIF 6 sharply upward.
If the city is to approve Zilber's ABB proposal, it commits TIF 6 to possibly another $2 million. And both the city and UWM need ABB to pass muster and build on the site. A successful development would help UWM make its payments to Milwaukee County for the Innovation Campus land; would create $13.5 million in property tax value for Wauwatosa and other taxing entities, including the schools; and is essential to show success in the whole development and attract other tenants.