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This year, the town of Sheboygan became one of the few Wisconsin townships to create a tax incremental financing district.
With the 500-acre TIF district, the town aims to spark numerous commercial and residential projects in the area where I-43 intersects with State Highway 42.
“The town has been looking at this area for many, many years,” said Mike Bauer, town of Sheboygan attorney. “It had tried working directly with developers and encouraged development to occur. Nothing economically appeared to work or be feasible. That all changed this past summer when we were able to create the TIF (district).”
Bauer said the town of Sheboygan is one of a fairly small number of Wisconsin townships able to establish a TIF district because it was large enough in equalized value and population, and it had public utility services.
He said the town is performing a market study that will show what exactly is in demand for the area. But its list of desired uses is lengthy, including multi-family and single-family housing, retail, hotels and restaurants, recreational amenities, office and mixed-use projects, according to a news release.
Indeed, there is lots of land that could be developed within the expansive TIF district boundaries. But town officials do have a few focal points.
Perhaps the most prominent is the roughly 100-acre Beuchel Farm site, just east of the freeway interchange. The town is working with a developer on a master plan for the site, which it would be developed in phases.
“It has always been a town purpose to promote, control and keep that area for development for the benefit of the town,” Bauer said.
He said town of Sheboygan chairman Dan Hein strongly supports the development of a community recreation center, something along the lines of an ice arena or indoor soccer fields. The idea is for the facility to generate a destination location and bring in more hotels and restaurants.
Such a building could potentially be placed on a site formerly identified for a Sam’s Club, south of the interchange along the east side of the freeway.
Brian Doudna, executive director of the Sheboygan County Economic Development Corp., said the growing number of jobs from big area employers creates the need for additional real estate development of all sorts.
“We need to continue expanding the housing options and retail options across the board,” he said.
Some local companies that are growing their workforce include sausage maker Johnsonville LLC and insurance company Acuity.
Doudna said there is a strong pipeline of multi-family projects countywide. But what the area really needs is more affordable options for the local workforce, as opposed to pricier luxury housing.
“We do need to see additional housing that will be affordable for individuals that are part of the workforce in this marketplace,” he said.
For Eileen Robarge, the need for more workforce housing is abundantly clear.
Robarge is owner and operating director of Solana Beach, California-based Wisconsin Lakefront Property Management LLC. The company owns and manages residential properties throughout southeastern Wisconsin. It is developing the 98-unit Whistling Oaks apartments west of I-43, on land directly north of the Menards store (which is located northwest of I-43 and Highway 42), and manages the existing Windward Cove apartments directly west of the Whistling Oaks project site.
“It’s just a need that’s very dire in the area,” Robarge said of workforce housing, particularly apartment units priced at just under $1,000 per month. “I can see additional product is needed beyond what we are building.”
She said much of the rental housing coming online in the county is priced around $1,200 a month for a one-bedroom unit. Her properties offer two-bedroom units around $995. She said Windward Cove is consistently fully occupied, and each time a unit is vacated she receives multiple applications.
The first two of the five Whistling Oaks buildings should be completed around late spring.
The TIF district is already being put to use, with Whistling Oaks being one of two projects set to receive financing from the town.
Bauer said Whistling Oaks could receive up to $425,000 over 10 years to help close the gap in cost overruns. He said the overruns come from the cost of lumber and other materials “skyrocketing.” The town would split 50% of the incremental taxes generated from the project with the developer, up to $425,000 total over the 10-year period.