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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 03, 2012 at 02:26 AM
Why isn't the rendering of what Mandel's proposing included w/ this article? It's basically a desecration of the Eschweiler buildings. Absolutely terrible would be a compliment. In addition to waiting til the last minute to let the cat out of the bag that the buildings can't be saved, you all are now informed that the only way the main building will be saved will be via TIF. Though, the only people who are caught off guard is the public who believed in what the process was supposed to be/encompass. Everything once again orchestrated behind the scenes. Here's the rendering from the Journal Sentinel. http://www.jsonline.com/business/eschweiler-buildings-may-have-public-space-fm6b725-164687196.html
jbw August 03, 2012 at 03:00 AM
So, yeah, we're finding out that not only are there no other parties coming forward with serious, economically viable preservation plans, but also that this largely incomplete and inadquate plan we do have is not economically viable either. This sounds like it's going about as well as the aborted Stone Pointe residential development, which was also TIF funded before David Israel bailed. And I thought I was skeptical before. Is the city council really not feeling any reservations at this point? I mean, are we going to put a huge amount of tax money into doing demolition and preparation up front for this job and then find out even more money is required, and then that Mandel has abandoned the project completely? Not that watching the buildings fall from neglect is a great alternative, but it beats a useless money pit failed development attempt. What measures will our representatives demand to assure us we don't receive the latter?
Taxpayer August 03, 2012 at 04:21 AM
In my humble opinion, 'Absolutelyfabulous' and 'jbw' make some good points and ask some questions that should have been answered well before 'the eleventh hour' (i.e. To Mandel et al.: 'Failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine')...Are Wauwatosa/Milwaukee County/Wisconsin taxpayers waiting for another 'shoe to drop'?? (it sounds like Mandel et al. are ignoring state laws about Historic Preservation while asking the Taxpayers to cover a whole Lot of new expenses to go with the Mercedes and the Porsche that were parked outside last night's meeting at Wauwatosa's City Hall --why do I get the feeling that those luxury cars may have been the vehicles of those complaining 'we need more money from the Taxpayers --again!!')
Jim Price August 03, 2012 at 04:57 AM
I did ask for the renderings and they were promised to me in time for this story, but some personal matters intervened, which I understand perfectly and would not question. Without naming names, somebody became a new daddy.
John T. Pokrandt August 03, 2012 at 02:32 PM
The Historic Preservation Commission's only legitimate vote can be a no vote. The project doesn't fit within the parameters of what's been approved and doesn't accomplish the stated goal of preserving the Eschweiler buildings. Now to add insult to injury we are supposed to subsidize the demolition of a historic district with TIF funds. Let me be crystal clear as well that UWM's financial needs should have no bearing on the decision of the commission. If Mandel is not able to conform to what has been laid out and approved the HPC needs to vote down the plan. Any consequence to UWM or the future of the development as a whole is not the jurisdiction or concern of the HPC.
Absolutelyfabulous August 03, 2012 at 02:34 PM
Jim- Thanks for the reply. Though, the Journal Sentinel was able to get renderings in time for their story which I believe was published just before Patch's. Either way, any possiblility to get more renderings of the entire project as how it is proposed and from different angles. Though, after just seeing what the Journal had, who really needs to go any further to get the gist of what Mandel et al's main goal was/is. Profit w/ no reverence to the past whatsoever.
Anja_MH August 03, 2012 at 02:48 PM
I don't understand why it is still in negotiations. If Mandel had signed a contract that said he would keep all the buildings and now is saying he won't doesn't that make the contract null and void? I personally feel that multi-resident developments are UGLY! As a tax payer I personally would prefer to keep it as park land rather that line a developers pockets!
Taxpayer August 03, 2012 at 04:47 PM
Some great posts since my last one...where are the Wauwatosa City Attorney, Chip Brown, et al. at this point??... http://wauwatosa.patch.com/articles/state-official-says-eschweiler-campus-land-sale-violated-law
Absolutelyfabulous August 03, 2012 at 05:13 PM
What I find interesting and also think is important to keep in mind is according to yesterday's JSentinel article, the Historic Preservation Commission or some entitiy w/in Tosa has decided to hire an independant consultant to either verify or nullify what Mandel is saying w/ regard to the costs of rehabilitating the buildings he wants to tear down. My question/s would be: Who actually is going to be hired to either back up what Mandel is saying or call him on what he's trying to do? Seriously, knowing how this whole situation has played out and been orchestrated to drop the bomb at the last minute when time is/has run out, who is this consultant going to be and what has/is the entity's position in Tosa on saving these buildings? h Or better yet, is this company truly at an arms length from the whole process w/ nothing to gain or have they been reccomended by Mandel himself/or the people he has been working w/ behind the scenes to essentially orchestrate this whole scenario even though the RFP states that preservation was part of the deal? Will this consultant be truly independant or have directives to come up w/ numbers that favor Mandel? Once again, here's the JS article from yesterday that indicates that an indepentant consultant will be hired to determine feasibility of rehabilitating the buildings. http://www.jsonline.com/business/eschweiler-buildings-may-have-public-space-fm6b725-164687196.html BTW Those bldgs are like Fort Knox,rock solid construction.
Cassandra August 04, 2012 at 01:08 AM
I don't understand why the Council isn't upholding the plans and resolutions already passed. They should be telling Mandel to stick to the City's plan and UWM to comply with the promises they made to the Council and the citizens of Wauwatosa.
Pete Donegan August 04, 2012 at 02:00 AM
That's the easy part John. HPC is just advisory. The question is, how should Council act? How should Council weigh the interest of economic development vs, preservation of these buildings? To what degree do you believe that most Tosans value the preservation of these? How much of the cost of preservation should taxpayers bear? And, if not the taxpayers, who is going to pay for it. You aspire to the Assembly. If you were just a humble Alderman, how would you vote? Would you risk disruption of the UWM project? Do you firmly believe that preservation of these buildings is viable without public subsidy? Are you willing to subsidize? Do you think most Tosans are with you? We probably agree that Mandel 'baited and switched'. But that's not the core public policy issue here. At the core is the viability of those buildings and the public's interest in them.
Jim Price August 04, 2012 at 04:45 AM
I frankly couldn't give two flips about the renderings of the new plan, because there is no money and no cost analysis to support it, and the developer said as much.This article is about the developer's (Mandel's) need for TIF funds to support saving and restoring the one building he said he would save. If you want to parse the difference between "no walls" and "low walls" in the "garden walls" plan, feel free, but I'm mainly interested in the dynamics of whether any of these buildings can be saved or just have to go. Everybody is waiting for a better idea. Yours is.... ?
Beetlejuice August 04, 2012 at 01:17 PM
The City of Wauwatosa formally adopted to preserve the Eschweiler district in 3 separate resolutions/plans--Master Plan for the Milw Co NE Quadrant (aka Kubala Washatko) City of Wauwatosa's Comprehensive Plan and the UWM's Innovation Park Master Plan. We, as citizens of Tosa, were made promises of Economic Dev, Historic restoration of the Eschweiler District and environmental preservation while this project was being vetted by the Council. It is time for the Council to hold UWM Real Estate Foundation's "feet to the fire".
Cassandra August 04, 2012 at 03:35 PM
There is no question that Mandel can make the numbers work. He is intentionally misrepresenting the tax credit process and skewing his numbers in order to make an argument to avoid the preservation portion of the project and increase his profits. His profits will be highest with new construction, especially with the icing on the cake of additional public funds. The point of public funding is to support a public purpose, which in this case is clearly defined as preserving buildings and natural areas. In this case, it will be used to provide additional profits, which he is confident he can obtain by duping the council with closed door lobbying. By the way, Ald. Donegan, how is it that you know so much and have clearly already made up your mind about a project that, in theory, hasn't been formally presented to the Council?
Pete Donegan August 04, 2012 at 06:48 PM
Now be nice Cassandra. I know things because I pay attention. But I have not taken a position yet because, as you say, a revised proposal has not yet come before us. In response to John's position above, I simply propose what I believe are the core public policy considerations and ask for John's counsel. The only things about which I "have made up my mind" are a) the cost (of preservation) to Tosa citizens matters and b) the UWM development is very, very good for Tosa. Do you disagree? Your first sentence above is quite astounding and, if it's accurate, the conversation is over. So quit bothering with me and go present your data to the HPC. I'm sure they will call a special meeting to hear the presentation
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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