West Waterfront Project Back On

This time with a possible state grant through the city

The Sturgeon Bay Terrace – a two-story, mixed-use building planned on the city’s West Waterfront – is moving forward once again.

The developer, WWP Development, had informed city staff a few months ago that the project wasn’t going to happen, but now is banking on receiving financial assistance through a state grant to help proceed with construction.

“Recently, the developer is back on, and feels they can make it work, [and] has the financing to construct the project,” said community development director Marty Olejniczak. 

The Sturgeon Bay Common Council last week approved a resolution in support of submitting an application to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation for funding the project through the Community Development Investment (CDI) grant program.

The council previously approved a development agreement for the Sturgeon Bay Terrace project near the west end of the Maple-Oregon Street Bridge.

Olejniczak said that agreement includes a provision that the city will apply on behalf of the Sturgeon Bay Terrace for a CDI grant, for which up to $250,000 is available to assist private and nonprofit projects.

“We may not get the whole award, but if we are successful, it will help bring down the cost of that project, and it could benefit not only WWP Development, but also the city parkland that surrounds it,” he said.

Olejniczak said municipalities are allowed to receive only one CDI grant for each state fiscal year, so by submitting the application by April 1, that will allow the city to be eligible for another CDI grant for fiscal year 2024, which begins July 1, 2023.

He said other projects for which the city has successfully applied for a CDI grant include the Marketplace by Bliss, the Door County Maritime Museum’s tower and the renovation of Third Avenue PlayWorks.

Olejniczak said there would be no expenses to the city other than limited staff time to submit the application on behalf of WWP Development.

Peter and Jennifer Gentry of WWP Development are planning to construct a deli, beer taproom and event space that are estimated to add $2.4 million in property value to tax increment district (TID) #4, which would fund a financial incentive of up to $685,000 for the development.

Plans for the approximately 3,000-square-foot building – for which Peter Gentry said he now hopes to begin construction this fall to be able to open in the spring of 2024 – have faced multiple challenges to begin at that site.

For example, levels of methane found at the site required having a  methane-mitigation plan go through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, for which WWP Development hired a consultant for the plan that the state agency approved.

The building footprint for the Sturgeon Bay Terrace also had to be moved, incurring additional costs for designing the project, because American Transmission Company (ATC) misrouted a high-voltage power line on the West Waterfront in an area other than where the city granted an easement, thereby limiting the amount of buildable area.

The city decided last year that it wasn’t practical to seek to have ATC remove and reroute the power line, which goes under the bay of Sturgeon Bay to a substation on the east side, so the city and the developer agreed to a settlement to have ATC pay reimbursements totaling more than $230,000, with WWP Development to receive $162,250, and the city’s costs related to the misrouted power line coming to $69,700.

Peter Gentry, who didn’t proceed with construction when the council backed the settlement last fall, said last week that he has yet to receive his share of the reimbursements to which ATC agreed.

He said that receiving CDI grant money would help to offset the increase in interest rates to borrow money to build the Sturgeon Bay Terrace.

Mayor David Ward said what he’s learned from WWP Development’s project is that “nothing’s certain until there’s a shovel in the ground and the foundation is laid. I’ve never seen such a star-crossed property as the West Waterfront.”

Ward said the development agreement gives the Gentrys until the end of 2024 to finish the Sturgeon Bay Terrace.

The council has also backed having the West Waterfront serve as a possible location to attract the Bay of Green Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve visitor center, which Olejniczak said should have enough space to locate there upon the Sturgeon Bay Terrace being built.

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