Waukesha officials are again seeking firms interested in redeveloping a vacant city-owned site just north of downtown.
The city recently issued a request for qualifications for the redevelopment of 3.38 acres along the west side of Delafield Street, across from Waukesha City Hall.
In the RFQ, the city states it is seeking qualifications for a senior market-rate residential or mixed-use project at the site, ideally with at least 75 housing units. Submissions are due Jan. 22.
This is the second time in as many years that Waukesha has marketed the site for redevelopment. Last spring, it received three proposals through a request for proposals process. Officials selected the proposal submitted by Madison-based Horizon Development Group Inc. and Elm Grove-based Luther Group. The development team's proposal consisted of an 80-unit senior apartment building with first-floor commercial space, with conceptual plans for additional commercial or residential development.
The city is again working with Colliers International | Wisconsin in marketing the site to developers.
Government and business leaders saw the redevelopment project as an opportunity to further enhance the city's downtown area.
Jeff Fortin, Waukesha senior planner, said city leaders were "very happy" with the Horizon-led proposal. He added the city created a new tax-incremental financing district to support the development as the developers were working on final site and architectural plans.
"However, uncertainty in the senior rental market due to the COVID-19 pandemic led them to decide to postpone construction without a clear timeframe or commitment on a start date," Fortin wrote in an email. "The Common Council met to discuss what to do and they directed staff to quickly reissue an (RFQ) for the property. They also encouraged Horizon to resubmit their proposal since it was well received."
Scott Kwiecinski, development manager with Horizon, said in a statement that his firm remains "very interested" in the project.
"Our efforts were slowed by market reactions to the COVD-19 pandemic," he said. "We have developed, built, and manage senior properties across the region and have new property in lease-up stages currently. We, along with lenders and investors, are seeing very difficult lease-ups and increasing vacancies at age restricted properties. Interested senior households exist, but many are choosing to hold off selling their home and moving during this time."
Kwiecinski said Horizon and its financial partners want to mitigate pandemic-related risks prior to starting a new project. They are looking for things to turn around sometime in the spring, he said.
"This pause also creates an opportunity for us to re-evaluate building design and other features that may be important to tenants going forward," he said. "Our goal is to create a successful project for the City and its residents for the long term and hope that this market dynamic shifts early in 2021."
The new RFQ is scaled back this time around due to the city's quick turnaround time for submissions, Fortin said. This time, developers can provide a narrative of what they seek to do and provide examples of previous similar projects, rather than submit a full conceptual plan with architectural drawings, he said.
Proposals also need to include a detailed estimated project timeline, according to the RFQ.
The expected selection timeline and milestones outlined in the RFQ include: Common Council selection of developer on Feb. 16, approval of contract with developer on March 2 and a contract signing by the city and developer on March 5.
After 60 days of due diligence and a plan approval up 120 days after that, the property transfer to the developer would occur no later than Sept. 7.
"The Redevelopment Authority and the Common Council envision a project that will make a statement on this highly visible gateway to downtown Waukesha," the RFQ states.