Sturgeon Bay’s Finance/Purchasing and Building Committee recommended Tuesday that an extension be granted through July 31, 2024, to “substantially complete” the restoration of the Teweles and Brandeis grain elevator on the West Waterfront.
That development agreement amendment, which will be considered Nov. 21 for final approval by the Common Council, would be the fourth one for the Door County Granary project.
The proposed amendment was put together following discussions between city officials and the Sturgeon Bay Historical Society Foundation (SBHSF), which is responsible for the granary’s restoration. The project’s last extension expired at the end of April.
In addition to extending the substantial completion date for the renovation – under the agreement, when an occupancy permit is issued – the latest amendment would require the SBHSF to pay for approximately $30,000 of the cost for the city to install additional public improvements, such as a central walkway, with those funds to be taken from a reserve account that was otherwise to be returned to the SBHSF upon completion of the project.
That amendment would also require the city to complete the central walkway by July 31.
The city will be constructing a portion of the fire access driveway that is on city property outside of the SBHSF lease area in the construction of a planned parking lot area.
The city is already required to construct a public parking lot in that area for the nearby Sturgeon Bay Terrace project, a two-story, mixed-use development in Tax Increment District #4.
The granary project, initially approved by the Common Council in April 2019, required the redevelopment of the grain elevator to be restored to a public use and then transferred to the city for ownership. Substantial completion of the project was supposed to have occurred by June 1, 2021.
The first amendment of the development agreement, which was approved in March 2020, called for ownership of the granary to be retained by the SBHSF and extended the substantial completion date to June 1, 2022.
The second amendment, approved in December 2020, left the completion date unchanged, but modified the agreement to update the plans and establish a fire access easement.
The third amendment, approved in May 2022, extended the time to complete the project to this past April. The SBHSF stated it experienced delays in being able to obtain materials when it requested that extension.
The project received a financial boost last December when $3.3 million in congressionally directed spending was earmarked for the project through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development.
The SBHSF held off bidding out the project until receiving those funds, pending a review by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), and informed the city the renovation work could resume in January and be completed by next July.
Plans for the Door County Granary project, upon its completion, call for the building to be open as a public space and a living museum three seasons out of the year.
Ability to “Substantially Complete” Questioned
A provision to amend the development agreement that was discussed at length by the committee pertains to the SBHSF no longer having an “opportunity to cure” if the project is not completed by the end of July, meaning it would then be up to the city as to what should happen to the granary.
City Administrator Josh Van Lieshout said the building would have to be “open and available for the use for which it was intended” by the end of July to be “substantially complete.”
“Forgoing the default remedies could be something the council has to address, but our expectation is that the developer’s contractor will be able to get the project done to substantial completion by that July 31 day,” he said.
Van Lieshout said the SBHSF would have no say in what could happen to the granary if the renovation isn’t completed by the end of July.
“It really is a big incentive for the developer to get done on time, and something for the council to think about what are we going to do,” he said.
Van Lieshout noted the possible options the city could pursue include enforcing the contract and using the money set aside for the project to raze or demolish the building, or negotiate again with the SBHSF to have the project completed for the purpose it was intended.
District 3 Alderman Dan Williams, a member of the committee, said city officials need to think about what would happen in the event the completion date isn’t met.
“I realize we don’t have those answers today, but I think we have to have some thought about that, because, again, it will be some prolonged process that we never expected this to happen,” he said. “So what are we going to do now?”
Williams said he has received calls from constituents asking about what the council will do if the granary project isn’t completed.
“I think it’s something we should be thinking about, and I don’t want to waste a ton of city time on it either, but I also know it could happen,” he said. “Stranger things have happened during this four years [since the agreement for the granary’s restoration was first approved], and anything’s possible.”