Freshwater Plaza Rises
Walker's Point finally gets a grocery store, plus more apartments, and surface parking galore.
The barren stretch of S. 1st St. that connects Bay View to Downtown is transitioning from a race track for cars to a walkable neighborhood. The most visible sign of this change, the Freshwater Plaza project, is rising at the northeast corner of S. 1st St. and E. Greenfield Ave. Wangard Partners is leading the development, which will include a grocery store, apartment building, outlot commercial buildings and eventually an office building.
The site was long home to a foundry owned by Grede before the firm closed the complex a little over ten years ago. The site was then cleared and sat empty for years before Wangard stepped in.
Wangard broke ground on the $46 million complex last October. Under construction today is a 46,280 square-feet Cermak Fresh Market grocery store and a mixed-use building with 16,900 square-feet of commercial space and 76 apartments.
The Kinnickinnic River Trail, which runs north-south at the east end of the site, will have an access point at the middle of the development. For those wanting to bike the trail, but lacking a bicycle, a Bublr Bikes bike sharing station is planned for the southwest corner of the complex.
Future plans include an office building on the east end of the site, near the UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences, with approximately 50,000 square-feet of space. Should that building ultimately materialize as planned, a 226-stall parking garage is slated to be built just north of it. Also planned are a couple retail outlot buildings along S. 1st St., sure to attract afast-food chains catering to the thousands of Rockwell Automation employees across the street.
The project team’s lengthy list of partners includes Eppstein Uhen Architects – design architect, American Design – retail tenant spaces, STO Architecture – Cermak Fresh Market, LB Consulting Services – interior design consulting, The Sigma Group – civil and environmental engineering, Catalyst Construction – construction of the mixed-use, office and retail building and CD Smith – Cermak Fresh Market construction.
The complex joins a wave other projects in the neighborhood, including the apartment buildings under construction at 1029 S. 1st St., the recently completed UWM School of Freshwater Sciences and Craft Development‘s redevelopment of the former Federal Manufacturing complex.
Complex Project Financing
Financing for the project couldn’t be more complex, no surprise for a brownfield project. Wangard received about $30 million in bank loans from Tri-City National Bank, National Cooperative Bank and Impact 7. In addition there is a reported $3.2 million in developer equity, a $685,542 grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, $10 million in federal New Market Tax Credits via the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority and $12 million in federal New Market Tax Credits from the First-Ring Industrial Redevelopment Enterprise Inc. The New Market Tax Credits deal requires Wangard to set aside 20 percent of the units at below-market rents for moderate-income renters.
In addition the city is contributing $4.77 million via a city-created tax-incremental financing district (#81). The TIF district figure includes $800,000 the city paid to purchase the office building site via its redevelopment authority. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources also participated in the brownfield remediation work.
According to city documents, the project plan includes $2.88 million for environmental remediation, $640,000 for stormwater management, and $450,000 for a water feature along E. Greenfield Ave. that is to serve as a gateway feature for the emerging “Harbor District.”
If you’ve reached the end of the financing description and can repeat the details back to the person sitting next to you, congratulations, you’re an urban finance pro.