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Mandel Wants TIF Funds to Restore Main Eschweiler Building

New plan calls for razing one building, taking two down to "garden walls" height, and would still preserve the Administration Building – but only with city tax financing assistance.

A modified plan for redeveloping the Eschweiler Campus on the County Grounds presented Wednesday night offers a different look to the finished project but still calls for taking down three buildings and saving one.

But while new design features were the focus of an informational presentation to the Wauwatosa Historical Preservation Commission, the real revelation was that the developer, Mandel Group, would need city tax district financing in order to preserve and restore even that one building.

Barry Mandel, president of the firm, first announced in May that to make a residential redevelopment of the Eschweilers and grounds profitable, . Then and since, he has made preservation of the largest structure, the Administration Building, the historic centerpiece of the project.

, Mandel offered details on the his proposed use of the Administration Building and indicated that his firm would bear the cost of restoring it.

But Wednesday, Mandel and his project leader, Phil Aiello, said that it would take $2.5 million in funding from a tax incremental financing district to proceed with the building's restoration.

While Mandel Group would, in effect, "subsidize" the building's preservation by giving up the value of the land it stands on, forgoing any profitable use within it, and paying to maintain it in the future, the upfront "hard costs" of restoration  would have to come from the city, to be repaid through the TIF over its lifetime.

TIFs not typically used to support such projects

The Eschweiler Campus is covered by two overlapping Wauwatosa TIF districts, No. 2 and No. 6.

City Administrator Jim Archambo said Thursday that Mandel has not made a formal request for TIF funds for rehabbing the Administration Building, but should he, there would be a number of steps involved.

"First, there are criteria they would have to meet to be TIF-eligible under state law," Archambo said. "Typically, TIF funds are used for infrastructure such as roads and utilities. I've seen them used for parking ramps and detention basins – that's not rare but less common.

"Whether historic preservation qualifies for that, I don't know and would have to look into."

If the proposed use were eligible, Archambo said, next the city would do a "TIF assessment" to see whether the costs to the district would be supported by the project – whether Mandel's apartment development would generate profits sufficient to repay the city's investment.

Third, the city would assess whether the proposal was "bond eligible" – that is, Archambo said, "Will it last at least for the life of the bonds?" No bonds have yet been issued on TIF No. 6, Archambo said, but the city typically bonds for a maximum of 10 years.

Finally, Archambo said, the request likely would require a "TIF plan amendment," because such a proposal was not part of the original plan approval of either TIF district.

Funding request would require an amendment

The TIF District No. 2 was created to pay for infrastructure in , but it was extended to include the Eschweiler Campus.

City borrowing against that TIF went to the roads and utilities in Research Park, to be repaid when the TIF is retired in 2015.

Archambo said it was "possible in theory but not really practicable" for any TIF No. 2 funds to go to Mandel because planning has already been long under way for closing out that district's funds.

A more likely source would be TIF No. 6, which the city created in 2010 to pay for infrastructure on the 89-acre economic development zone that includes UWM's Innovation Park project and the Eschweiler Campus.

That TIF, capped at $12 million, was intended to pay for Discovery Parkway, the city street that will serve as the access route through the area, as well as side roads and utilities throughout, including those that would serve the Eschweiler Campus.

There has been no previous public discussion of using TIF No. 6 funds for any of the Eschweiler buildings themselves. Archambo said that such a request would almost certainly trigger the need for a TIF plan amendment.

As a rule, municipal TIF funds are not used to directly support private development itself, only the public infrastructure that serves it.

Mandel noted Wednesday and in his June presentation that two-thirds of the space in the Administration Building would be for public uses, which might serve to qualify it for TIF assistance.

Under Mandel's proposal, the second floor of the building would include three offices for use by non-profit charitable organizations, as well as public meeting rooms. The third floor, formerly the Agriculture School gymnasium, would be come a conference or event room for larger gatherings.

Mandel could not be reached Thursday for comment on this story.

Cost of 'garden walls' plan for 2 buildings unknown

The design changes offered Wednesday by Mandel focused on the Dairy and Dormitory buildings, which stand along the west side of the Eschweiler Campus quadrangle.

Instead of being taken down to the ground, as initially proposed, they would be taken down to their lower walls, at 7½ feet, which would remain as enclosures for English gardens. Arched doorways and fireplaces would also remain as taller features showing some of the aspects of architect Alexander Eschweiler's work.

These walled gardens would "memorialize" Eschweiler and the historic nature of the campus, originally the Milwaukee County School of Agriculture and Domestic Economy, and would be open to public use.

However, Mandel and Aiello said that they did not yet know what the cost of the partial demolitions would be and implied that going ahead with that plan would depend on the estimate they receive.

Mandel's latest plan also calls for a private swimming pool for the use of residents of the development, which in the design drawings would lie immediately west of and parallel with the Administration Building.

Mandel and Aiello said that the pool was an amenity that would help attract tenants willing to pay high enough rents to make the development profitable.

Absolutelyfabulous August 04, 2012 at 07:24 PM
Jim- It's nice you take such an attitude for providing your readers w/ whatever you feel is best. It's nice to see the Tom Daykin @ JSOnline was able to provide actual renderings of what Mandel proposed. AND, yes it is important to let readers view what has been proposed just to give them that much more of an idea of what a farce this situation has been turned into by not only Mandel but by whoever he's been coordinating w/ behind the scenes UWM/Tosa decision makers. So, next time how about trying a little more to provide your readers w/ as much information as possible so they can get a better view/idea of what's been/is happening. I highly doubt the comments in Patch resonate one bit w/ the decision makers based upon what has transpired so far. Now, who knows what causes each person to act or take action. Maybe by presenting as much info. as possible to your readers will engage some to take action outside of this blog as well as get involved in the cause and possibly make a difference that might actually resonate w/ those involved in this process. Do everyone a favor and check your Pi$$ A$$ retorts at the door.
Cassandra August 06, 2012 at 02:39 PM
The UWM Innovation Campus has great potential as originally proposed and approved. That vision will not be achieved if it is allowed to be sidetracked and reduced to yet another development that destroys natural landscape and historic properties, especially when done with taxpayer dollars. It was very apparent at the preservation commission meeting that Mandel never intended to save the buildings and intentionally mislead the public in terms of his efforts to consider alternatives.
Christine McLaughlin August 07, 2012 at 09:18 PM
Pete, you ask "would you risk disruption of the UWM project?" and say that this development is very, very good for Tosa. But the plan to hang development of the the UWM engineering school and research park on funding from building apartments is a sticky wicket. Yes, Mandel Group is the developer in hand. You've invested time with them. But common sense seems to say stop and wait until a better project can go ahead. Is Tosa responsible for the limitations of UWM's financial mare's nest? Do we need to push this solution through to make it happen? Persuade me that's the only answer. Of course we (you) should do everything reasonable to help them succeed. But a six month or year hiatus would give time for you to convince us that this is the best idea available. Or find another. Set the clock from the time Mandel changed the rules of the game, not from the time they bid the job.
Pete Donegan August 08, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Greetings Christine! I get your point and I think it deserves thorough consideration once this gets to Council. However, there are so many positive but complex developments in the works associated with the UWM project that I believe a 6 month or 1 year delay will trouble many. These include the Accelerator building, the Engineering School building and a significant private engineering business with whom we are in conversation. None are "done deals". All need predictability. To your other comments: I think that the "sticky wicket" is the Eschweiller buildings. If we were not so dedicated to their preservation, I don't believe that we would need this apartment complex and we could keep that 8 acres as parkland. When Council approved this plan, I argued against the apartment (Mandel) development and predicted the "bait and switch" (that his development would not throw off enough money to complete the preservation) and that he would be back with a change. As to the "eleventh hour" stuff and at what point we "start the clock": The buildings were designated "historical" in 1998 and, to the best of my knowledge, we now have the first and only serious attempt to put a price tag on their preservation; 14 years later. If there really was broad based and deep passion for the preservation of these, don't you think that would have at least effected an estimate of cost which is, of course, the key issue. Contrast this effort to the Hoyt Pool effort. Makes me wonder.
Namaste August 10, 2012 at 02:11 AM
Until the land sale with UWM Real Estate Foundation, the County was sole owner of the property and was derelict in the care of the bldgs. Remember that S5 and the dormitory building were functional and occupied up until 2006 when occupants were displaced due to the MMSD basin project. The Hoyt pool had the backing of Milwaukee County, Wauwatosa and the community. The public was lead to believe that the Eschweilers would be preserved as part of the land sale with UWM REF and up until May 3rd, the public was under the same assumption that Mandel Group would restore the Eschweiler campus based upon the need for an additional 200,000 sq feet of new infill development. If the bldgs are not going to be saved, then Mandel does not need 200,000 sq ft of new construction to offset costs of rehabilitation and needs to reduce their footprint if the environment is to benefit.

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