A proposed $39.5 million Town of Brookfield public financing plan — with greater guarantees from the Marcus Corp. against town default — won mixed reviews from town residents at a packed public hearing Wednesday night.
Some called the project a refreshing, needed upgrade of the "eyesore" of the shuttered and relocated Menards store and Marcus theater, and a way to boost the town's tax base for the future.
Others said it was "obscenely" large, would create too much traffic and environmental pollution, and could leave the town on the hook if the project doesn't develop as planned and repay town debt for public improvements.
Marcus wants to raze the buildings in question on Bluemound Road east of Barker Road at the high-profile I-94 exit and build an open-air, retail-housing development in keeping with Bayshore Mall in Glendale.
It would be anchored by Wisconsin's first Von Maur department store, as well as 243,000 square feet of additional retail and restaurants and 140 to 150 residential apartments above the retail, and a large underground parking structure below almost the entire complex. More residential units have replaced former plans for office development.
A Joint Review Board raised questions Sept. 12 about the ability of the sweeping project to generate enough tax revenue to pay then-proposed $37 million in town debt within a 16-year deadline.
The Town Board met with Marcus Corp. and project representatives for hours in closed session Tuesday night. And at Wednesday's public hearing, the town presented a plan with some changes.
The details of a developers agreement are still being negotiated, with a goal of being finalized by Oct. 25, but one key provision would require Marcus to guarantee $187 million in added tax base from the project — or face a special assessment against the properties involved if the value is not realized.
A draft project plan dated Sept. 12 called for the town to borrow $37.18 million — plus a $1 million contingency if needed — to finance public improvements and a large underground parking structure.
Wednesday's plan reduced the initial borrowing to $34.5 million and removed plans to build a bridge over Poplar Creek and improve Janacek Road with use of tax incremental financing district funds.
But total borrowing could total 39.5 million, if The Corners adds in excess of $209 million in new tax value.
If that value is exceeded, the town could borrow another $2.5 million to finance the bridge and Janacek Road improvements. And Marcus could borrow on its own — not the town — another nearly $3 million which would be repaid by funds the town collects in the tax district.
Mike Harrigan of Ehlers, the town's consultant on the plan, said it all hinges on property values.
City of Brookfield Finance Director Robert Scott challenged the projected values as potentially inflated, given comparables to Brookfield Square mall on the east end of the Brookfield Bluemound Road business corridor. The figures in the plan came from Marcus Corp. and project representatives.
That drew several town residents to argue that if the city opposed the project or financing, that was good reason for the town to approve it.