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We’re thrilled to announce that Ravenna has broken ground across the street and more terrific retailers are joining the community.  YoMama, Indulgence Chocolatier, Elements East and Performance Running Outfitters fill out one of the best retail streets in Milwaukee.  We think it’s the best spot in town!

We’re thrilled to announce The Cornerstone was recognized by The Business Journal as the Best Public/Private Partnership in 2010!!  Many thanks to Shorewood, Whitefish Bay, our lender, our retailers, our residents and our contractors for helping us realize our vision.  This really is a great place.

Shorewood business district gets makeover

Gary Porter

Developer Blair Williams plans to begin building the four-story Ravenna building this spring. The building will include street-level retail and 22 apartments, at the southwest corner of Oakland and Glendale avenues.

By Tom Daykin of the Journal Sentinel Click to enlarge

enlarge photo

Gary Porter The Cornerstone apartment and retail space owned by Williams is one of several new building projects that are changing the look of Shorewood’s Oakland Ave. business district. more photos Gary Porter The Cornerstone apartment and retail space owned by Williams is one of several new building projects that are changing the look of Shorewood’s Oakland Ave. business district. Close

Shorewood’s Oakland Ave. business district is getting a new look, thanks to a series of commercial developments partly financed with public cash.

The planned projects, along with one just completed, amount to tens of millions of dollars of new investment. They include apartments, stores, restaurants and public parking structures that village officials say will raise commercial property values and eventually reduce the share of property taxes paid by homeowners.

Some of those tax benefits will take several years to appear, when the village pays off its debt from helping build the developments. But there are more immediate improvements, including the replacement of parking lots with new buildings, says Chris Swartz, village manager, and Pete Petrie, Community Development Authority chairman.

"That fills in a tremendous void," Petrie said.

One plan unveiled 10 days ago calls for a six-story building that Mandel Group Inc. and RE Enterprises LLC would develop west of Oakland Ave. and south of Kenmore Place, on the parking lot for Nehring’s Sendik’s grocery store. The $32 million proposal includes a Walgreens store, 84 apartments and two separate public parking decks totaling 94 spaces.

The new building would relocate Walgreens from its current location across Kenmore Place. Moving Walgreens would allow Roundy’s Supermarkets Inc. to expand its nearby Pick ‘n Save supermarket.

Roundy’s controls the Walgreens property and adjacent former Harry W. Schwartz Bookstore through a recently acquired lease. The village’s master plan for that site recommends a multistory building and parking structure to replace the single-story buildings and parking lots.

A Roundy’s spokeswoman said it’s premature to discuss the company’s plans. Real estate industry sources expect the Pick ‘n Save, Walgreens and Schwartz buildings to be demolished and replaced with a larger supermarket - possibly an upscale Metro Market - that includes a public parking structure along with additional development.

This spring, developer Blair Williams plans to begin building the four-story Ravenna building, with street-level retail and 22 apartments, at the southwest corner of Oakland and Glendale avenues. That $6.5 million project complements Williams’ Cornerstone building, which opened last fall at the northeast corner of Oakland Ave. and Kensington Blvd.

The four-story Cornerstone has so far leased out 18 of its 24 apartments, which have monthly rents ranging from $1,200 to $2,650, Williams said. That $8 million project includes such street-level shops and restaurants as Boutique B’Lou and North Star American Bistro.

Target residents

Cornerstone’s residents, and those Williams expects Ravenna to draw, include empty-nesters, retirees and young professionals. He said they want apartments that are larger and feature more amenities than what’s generally available in Shorewood’s older apartment buildings.

That’s the case for Mary Ellen DeHaven, who moved to Cornerstone after selling her Shorewood house. Among the key features: Her unit has its own washer and dryer - something not found in many older apartments, said DeHaven, who’s lived in Shorewood for over 30 years.

Mandel executives say their project would likely attract similar renters.

That building will be financed mainly through Mandel’s sale of tax-exempt bonds to investors. Because the bond purchasers don’t pay taxes, Mandel can pay them a lower interest rate. In return, federal regulations require some apartments be set aside for people earning no more than 60% of the area’s median income.

Those 17 units will have rents ranging from $775 to $1,100. The remaining units will rent for $1,200 to $2,000.

Residents at all three apartment buildings will spend money in Oakland Ave.’s restaurants and stores, say development supporters.

"Those are new customers at my door," said John Nehring, co-owner of Nehring’s Sendik’s.

The public parking decks connected to the Mandel project will benefit Sendik’s and other nearby businesses, whose customers will park for free.

"It’ll help," said Rick Schmidt, who operates Oak Crest Tavern, located just across Oakland Ave. from Sendik’s. "Parking is at a premium around here."

Also, the developments are replacing older homes, parking lots and, in the case of Cornerstone, a gas station. The new projects help raise the value of nearby properties, including homes, Williams said, while creating a more attractive neighborhood.

"This is awesome," said Christi Clancy, as she sat in an Alterra cafe at Cornerstone, about a block from her house. "Our neighborhood has an identity now."

Tax revenue stream

Perhaps the biggest benefit is the property tax revenue generated by the new projects. And that isn’t expected to kick in for another 10 years.

That delay is tied to the tax incremental financing district, created in 1995 by the Village Board, which allows Shorewood to help finance projects on Oakland Ave. Shorewood can borrow money to help fund public improvements and other costs tied to the projects, with property taxes from new developments within the tax district paying off that debt.

Once that debt is gone, the developments’ property taxes will flow to the village, its schools and other local governments. Under state law, the tax district can operate until 2021. While Swartz said it could be shut down before then, it may be another 10 years before the property taxes from new projects are benefitting Shorewood residents.

The tax district had project costs totaling $14.4 million at the end of 2009, according to the latest audit available. That included $5.3 million to reconstruct Oakland Ave. and add new lights, trees and other street amenities; $3.1 million to buy parcels for development projects; and $740,000 to help pay for building facade renovations. Interest expense totaled $2.4 million.

The tax district’s revenue through 2009 was $9.2 million, mainly from property taxes on new developments. The new property base created within the district was valued at $46 million.

The cost of inaction

That tax base now has the potential to grow significantly under the new projects that have surfaced. But will those developments need village financing?

Swartz and Petrie say they do, mainly because of the high cost of buying land along Oakland Ave.

They say longtime property owners, such as investor Dan Katz, who is selling two parking lots for Mandel’s project, and the Sampson family, which is leasing out the land to Roundy’s for the expected supermarket redevelopment, are under no financial pressure to make those parcels available to developers.

The alternative would be to wait for property owners to reduce their prices. That could bring long delays, resulting in lost opportunities to add new buildings, Williams said.

"The question becomes, really, what is the cost of not doing it?" said Williams, whose Cornerstone building and its retail tenants received village financing of $1.2 million.

The village tries to provide just enough cash to allow a developer to obtain a reasonable return on his investment, said Petrie, a retired management consultant. The village hires consulting firm Ehlers & Associates Inc. to help determine the amount.

Shorewood’s involvement in financing such projects has brought opposition from some residents, Swartz said. But that appears to be a minority view, he said.

"I think the vast majority understands that redevelopment just doesn’t happen," Swartz said.

The Neighborhood is Growing!!

Real Estate Weekly

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mixed-use project in Shorewood moves forward

Milwaukee-based WiRED Properties has received a preliminary financing commitment to build Ravenna, a mixed-use development the firm has planned for years on Oakland Avenue in Shorewood. Construction could begin in three months, said WiRED Properties president Blair Williams.

The building, called Ravenna, will be built on a 0.55-acre vacant lot in the 4500 block of Oakland Avenue. It will be four stories tall with 22 apartments and 7,500 square feet of retail space.

WiRED originally planned to have condominiums in Ravenna, but the project was stalled when the condo market collapsed. Other than shifting the condos to apartments few changes have been made to the project, Williams said.

“We’ll tone down the finishes a little bit,” he said.

The project will cost about $6.5 million, Williams said. Oconomowoc-based First Bank Financial Centre has made a preliminary commitment to provide a construction loan for about 80 percent of the financing, he said. Equity financing will cover the remainder of the cost.

Performance Running Outfitters has signed a letter of intent to occupy 2,200 square feet of retail space in the building.

The Ravenna project is similar to The Cornerstone, another mixed-use development that WiRED built on the other side of Oakland Avenue. The Cornerstone has 25 apartments and 11,000 square feet of retail space. All of the retail space has been leased and 70 percent of the apartments have been leased, Williams said.

The Cornerstone was built on a 0.77-acre lot, previously occupied by a gas station.

WiRED will purchase the site for Ravenna from the Village of Shorewood. A home and a dentists office previously occupied the site. Those properties were acquired by the village, the buildings were demolished and the village issued a request for proposals (RFP) from developers. Village officials selected WiRED Properties to develop the site.

Engberg Anderson is the architect for The Cornerstone and Ravenna.

The addition of The Cornerstone and Ravenna will increase the density and dramatically change the appearance of the north end of the Oakland Avenue commercial district.

“People had never thought of this end of Oakland as being anything more than the end of Oakland,” Williams said. “For the first time in my career I’ve had the unique experience of having neighbors who I didn’t know, who will say, ‘We just want to thank you for what you’ve added to our neighborhood.’”

Shorewood OKs grants for retail developments

By Tom Kertscher of the Journal Sentinel

Shorewood - The Village Board has approved more than $526,000 in grants to help retailers at two developments.

More than $400,000 will fund improvements in the retail portion of the Cornerstone development, which is on the site of a former gas station at 4514 N. Oakland Ave.

The Cornerstone stores and their grant amounts, according to details being presented to the board:

North Star Restaurant, $156,516; Alterra Coffee Roasters, $112,918; Ocean B’Lou, $72,481; and Thief Wine, $60,746.

The board also approved making $126,000 in façade grants for the commercial property at 2201-13 E. Capitol Drive.

The façade grants are to be used toward new windows, light fixtures, fencing and other improvements.

The businesses there include The City Market, North Shore Wheels, Gianelli’s and McMenamin’s. For the façade grants, $76,000 would come from a tax incremental finance account and $50,000 from the Business Improvement District.

The Cornerstone lands bistro as tenant

By Tom Daykin of the Journal Sentinel

North Star American Bistro, 4515 N. Oakland Ave., Shorewood, plans to move across the avenue to The Cornerstone, an apartment and retail building that’s under construction.

My colleague, Tom Kertscher, reports that the Community Development Authority is considering a $102,500 loan help finance the relocation. The restaurant also is seeking a $50,000 grant.

 The Cornerstone, a four-story building with 25 apartments and 11,000 square feet of street-level retail space, also has landed an Alterra cafe. The $7.5 million project is being developed by Blair Williams, and includes $929,000 in financing provided by a tax incremental financing district. Those funds will be repaid through the Cornerstone’s property taxes.

Williams plans to develop Shorewood property

The Business Journal of Milwaukee - by Pete Millard

The villages of Shorewood and Whitefish Bay are discussing ways to redevelop a 31,000-square-foot parcel that’s split evenly between the two municipalities.

The developer of the property, WiRED Properties LLC, Milwaukee, expects Shorewood officials to place an emphasis on apartments, and Whitefish Bay to push for retail on its half.

“The goal is to come up with a cohesive plan that treats the development as one parcel even though the communities have different outlooks,” said Blair Williams, president of WiRED Properties.

The parcel in the 4500 block of North Oakland Avenue was once a gas station and automobile repair shop.

Williams is currently seeking approval from Shorewood for a 28-unit, four-story apartment building that would include underground parking. On the Whitefish Bay side of the property, WiRED is looking at 11,000 square feet of retail split among four tenants.

The former gas station property included an approximate 15,000-square-foot building that was “deconstructed” instead of demolished and hauled to a landfill, said Chris Swartz, Shorewood’s village manager.

As part of the deconstruction process handled by the environmental services division of The Sigma Group, Milwaukee, the building was dismantled in the opposite way it was constructed so metals, asphalt, concrete and masonry could be recovered and recycled as raw materials, said Keith Schmitz, a spokesman for the village.

Schmitz said more than 90 percent of the plumbing, wiring, pavement and other building materials were recycled.

“This is one example of how we are working with developers to find greener ways to redevelop the village,” said Swartz.

Apartments proposed for Oakland Ave. in Shorewood, Whitefish Bay

By Tom Daykin of the Journal Sentinel

Developer Blair Williams’ plan to build upscale apartments at the northeast corner of N. Oakland Ave. and E. Kensington Blvd. got an initial review this week from the Whitefish Bay Village Board, according to sister publication Whitefish Bay Now.

The site, where a gas station was recently demolished, straddles the Whitefish Bay-Shorewood border. The development plan’s success might depend on whether Whitefish Bay officials agree to give up some of the property to Shorewood in return for cash to make up lost property tax revenue, according to the article.

Shorewood apartment/retail project will include Alterra

By Tom Daykin of the Journal Sentinel

Construction will begin within the next month on  a 25-unit apartment building at 4514 N. Oakland Ave. in Shorewood, at the site of a former Mobil gas station, developer Blair Williams, of Wired Properties said today.

The $7.5 million project will also include 11,000 square feet of first floor retail space, including an 1,800-square-foot Alterra cafe. The apartments will be a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, that hopes to attract empty nesters, young professionals and families with children, Williams said.

The project should be completed by fall 2010. Its funding included a $100,000 state grant for environmental cleanup work.

Shorewood apartment/retail project has groundbreaking Tuesday

By Tom Daykin of the Journal Sentinel

The Cornerstone, a four-story building with 25 apartments and 11,000 square feet of street-level retail space, will have a groundbreaking ceremony at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Oakland Ave. and Kensington Blvd., in Shorewood.

The retail space is anchored by Alterra Coffee, and includes a bar/restaurant, wine retailer/wine bar and a woman’s clothing boutique, according to developer Wired Properties, led by Blair Williams.

The building includes 47 underground parking stalls for apartment residents and additional surface parking for retailers. Construction will begin immediately, with the retailers and first apartments anticipated to open next fall. The building will be completed by December 2010.

The site was formerly occupied by a Mobil gas station, which closed in 2008. The state Department of Commerce provided a $100,000 grant to remove contamination from the property.

Financing for the $7.5 million project included $929,000 provided by Shorewood through a tax increment financing district. That money will be repaid through the Cornerstone’s property taxes.