Negotiations are going well for two building projects in Eau Claire, but developers and the city’s Redevelopment Authority are seeking more time to hash out details.
The RDA board voted unanimously for three-month extensions to negotiate land deals for affordable housing and office buildings proposed in two Eau Claire redevelopment districts.
“There’ve been substantial gains in the process for both projects,” said Aaron White, the city’s economic development manager.
Exclusive rights to negotiate were granted on Nov. 21 to both and would’ve expired today without the extensions.
Votes to extend negotiations for both projects passed in 5-0 votes, White said, noting that a few RDA board members couldn’t attend Wednesday morning’s meeting due to difficult travel conditions caused by the snow or other commitments.
“The community is still excited about both projects,” White said.
The office buildings are proposed by Eau Claire-based Pablo Properties for two lots on the west side of the 100 and 200 blocks of North Barstow Street. Those lots are currently vacant land next to a city parking ramp and a large temporary parking lot, known as Block 7.
Unveiled in autumn, Pablo Properties’ pitch is to build an upscale four-story office building with glass walls, a new Eau Claire Children’s Museum and a separate office building with lower rents for start-up businesses. All told, the project’s estimated cost is $32 million, the developers announced in November when their proposal was picked over three others vying for the prime downtown lots.
Details of the negotiations are still being discussed behind closed doors, but White said some of the points still being decided on involve parking and public space included in Pablo’s project.
Plans for apartments envisioned along Oxford Avenue, just south of the Eau Claire Children’s Theatre, already have gone through several city approvals but a deal for land there is still under negotiation with the RDA.
Madison-based developer W Capital Group got the necessary rezoning and parking variance from the City Council last month for the project dubbed Cannery Trail Residences.
White said securing approval from the RDA is partially down to ensuring the project’s financials are in order.
Pitched as an $8 million project that would include affordable housing for low-income residents, the development would seek grants from the Wisconsin Housing Economic Development Authority.
Warner’s proposal also would need to be tweaked slightly to meet the city’s policies for a tax increment financing district, which it is expected to establish this year for the Cannery District.
Those districts use taxes on new buildings within their borders to pay for public improvements, such as parks, streets and utilities. After those redevelopment areas have paid off those public projects, the new private property within them goes onto tax rolls.
The city is still drafting a project plan — the first step in creating a TIF district — with estimated costs for public improvements and how much private development is expected in the Cannery District.
“Once we have the project plan completed it’s probably another two to three months before the district would be created,” finance director Jay Winzenz said.
In addition to votes from the city’s Plan Commission and City Council, a new TIF district also requires approval from a panel of representatives from the city, Eau Claire school district, county government and Chippewa Valley Technical College.
Winzenz said the city hopes to have the TIF district approved by autumn.