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The Corners Financing Plan Praised, Panned by Residents

At a packed public hearing at Brookfield Town Hall Wednesday, residents expressed mixed views on The Corners / Von Maur project and public financing. The Marcus Corp. said it was offering more guarantees against project default.

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.

Tom September 27, 2012 at 12:37 PM
This looks to be a sound investment to increase property value and tax reveunue for the Town especially given added guarantees from the Marcus Corporation and the fact that the City is opposed to it.
quiteconcerned September 27, 2012 at 01:39 PM
What happened to the great crucible of conservatism, Waukesha County? This property is praised by the Marcus folks and their consultants as being a prime destination shopping location. If that is true, why do they need any help from tax payers? One gentlemen at the meeting put it best: "When I built my garage on my house, I paid for it. Why doesn't Marcus pay for its building?" Also, another gentlemen asked about added cost for police and fire, which will be an ongoing, larger expense paid for by Town residents for decades to come..
Randy1949 September 27, 2012 at 01:55 PM
Why can't Marcus pay for its own improvements? I agree with you there, but being 'open for business' seems to be the spirit of the day here in Wisconsin, with regular taxpayers making gifts to businesses to attract them in. That's Scot Walker's conservatism in action. I had the feeling that the City would have been only too happy to make the same deal to attract Von Maur.
Randy1949 September 27, 2012 at 02:09 PM
@Tom -- It's a risk either way. My opinion is that the location is good. The existing mall has become rundown because two important businesses relocated to larger quarters. There's very little in there currently to attract people in. I recall the same sort of negativity from the City when the Galleria just west of Brookfield Road was planned. What would we Town 'hicks' do with such an upscale development? Turns out, quite a lot.
Tom September 27, 2012 at 03:14 PM
@Randy1949 - That's right. The property has already been developed so it is not a question of whether to develop it or not. It has fallen into a decrepid state and with a small percentage of the money and value of the project coming from the Town it should, and will become a gem that will produce increased tax revenues that outweigh the costs and risks. Who knows, maybe even a job or two?
Randy1949 September 27, 2012 at 03:24 PM
@Tom -- I received two flyers fromfollowthemoney several days ago, and all it did was make me wonder who is so desperate to torpedo this project. I think the City of Brookfield was a little too obvious here. I would like to ask what 'followthemoney' would prefer to have happen with that site.
Tom September 27, 2012 at 04:15 PM
Yeah, whoever it was that was behind the propoganda spent a fair amount of money on producing and mailing those two glossy postcards to every Town resident. They must feel that saying "NO" is more important than an actual solution as to the site.
Randy1949 September 27, 2012 at 04:23 PM
I doubt they're Town residents, or if they are, they are the Town residents in favor of annexation by the City of Brookfield.
Randy1949 September 27, 2012 at 04:37 PM
@quiteconcerned -- This, and your MSJ post bear a striking resemblance to the followthemoneybrookfield blog post on last night's meeting. So I'll ask you -- what would you rather see done with that site?
quiteconcerned September 27, 2012 at 04:43 PM
Let's focus on what others said at the meeting. A gentleman by the name of Landy said he would be voting against welfare in the fall election for president and believes we should vote against corporate welfare at home. Another by the name of Dumbrowski asked about the added fire and police protection required for such a large development. This is a cost that will be put on the taxpayers for decades to come. Another DOT planner and resident, said Goerkes Corners was the worst intersection in the state and this is the worst place for Marcus to build such a large development. As for what to do with the property, let the free market decide what should be done. The Marcus folks and their consultants said this is "prime real estate." As for just rubber stamping tax payer funds for private development, especially for "prime real estate," that is a dangerous perspective for all taxpayers.
Randy1949 September 27, 2012 at 04:59 PM
You missed the part about how a 'few' residents supported it but they were 'obviously planted by the town supervisors'. I don't think so. I started out on the fence about this, but you, the City officials commenting, and the fliers from followthemoneybrookfield made my Spidey-senses tingle.
Scott Berg September 27, 2012 at 05:09 PM
I can assure you that "followthemoney" is NOT the City of Brookfield. Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine. Last night's presentation included an animation of the proposed building. Most of the "store" signs were generic things like "Sporting Goods". But did you notice the one that said "Chico's"? That *PROVES* the town is not attempting to attract new businesses to the new mall, but rather is relying on cannibalizing existing ones, even ones already in the town. For that alone, the city should be concerned. Add on the likelihood of a failed and shuttered building (think Northridge) bringing blight to the whole Blue Mound Road corridor, and there's plenty of reasons for the City to be concerned. So, why aren't more of the town's residents?
Randy1949 September 27, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Don't you think there's a slight difference between the Northridge area and the Town?
Tom September 27, 2012 at 05:34 PM
"Likelihood of a failed and shuttered building"? That has already become an unfortunate reality. My guess is Brookfield Square corporation or a Blue Mound retail business association is behind the Follow the Money organization. They would have the most to lose because the retailers at the mall already put up a fuss over Von Maur a couple of years back. They were naive in not thinking that Von Maur could build right down the road.
Scott Berg September 27, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Randy - Which sticks out more - 1) A "failed and shuttered building" in an otherwise wealthy and well kept community, or 2) A "failed and shuttered building" in a neighborhood of other "failed and shuttered buildings"? The differences are exactly why the impact of a failure will be so much more devastating to the Town than Northridge was to Milwaukee, and THAT was bad enough.
Randy1949 September 27, 2012 at 06:04 PM
@Scott Berg -- As Tom pointed out, we already have a failed and shuttered building, mostly because the existing structure makes poor use of the site and the strip mall lost its anchor(s). But you're suggesting we should hand this potentially disastrous white elephant off to you good folks at the City, who know how to treat 'nice things'? Please pull the other one -- it has bells on.

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