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Menomonee Falls officials discuss TIF usage in the village

June 9, 2014

Menomonee Falls — Menomonee Falls is no stranger to tax-incremental financing. From the redevelopment along Main Street to the Silver Spring Corporate Park, the village has seen its fair share of successes, and challenges, when it comes to TIFs over the years, according to the annual TIF report.

Each of the village's 11 TIFs, both active and closed, were reviewed as part of the report, which Assistant Director of Community Development and Economic Development Specialist Matt Dorner presented at the June 4 meeting of the village board.

"I think there is a lot of confusion when it comes to the use of TIFs," said Dorner, who referenced TIF No. 6 as one that is commonly misunderstood. TIF No. 6, which contains the Radisson Hotel, as well as TIF No. 8, are both redevelopment TIFs along Highway 41/45 that until recently had taken some time to get moving.

Slowly coming around

"There is usually one project you sort of point to and don't understand the successes we've had with TIF in the village," Dorner explained. "(TIFs 6 and 8) have definitely taken some time but when you see the end progress, it really shows the proper use of TIF and partnering with the private sector to get projects to move forward that pair well with community goals that deal with those high visibility districts."

TIF is a mechanism that allows municipalities to borrow money to fund infrastructure improvements for an area that otherwise would be difficult to develop or redevelop. The increased property tax revenue from the improved land is then diverted from the tax roll to pay off the loan.

While the village continues to work through what has been a long haul of a foreclosure process on the Radisson Hotel, Village Manager Mark Fitzgerald said there is an end in sight.

"We have received judgments against the ownership group for the cost of the hotel of $15 million-plus," Fitzgerald explained. "We would expect that by mid-summer we would have a series of potential buyers that we would analyze and work through and try to achieve the best sale price possible."

Hoping to sell hotel

Fitzgerald said the village intends to move forward with a sale by mid-fall and use TIF 6 to fund any remaining long-term debt that might exist between the original loan and the sale price.

The village board approved a $17.65 million construction loan to the developer Lodging Investors of Menomonee Falls in 2010. The village lent the money to help move along renovations that stopped in the midst of the financial crisis of 2008. Village officials voiced concerns that the unfinished hotel was hurting efforts to redevelop nearby properties, including a shopping center on Main Street and Pilgrim Road. That shopping center has since been completed, and has become one of a couple of catalysts that pushed redevelopment along Main Street.

Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Orthapedic Sports & Spine Center, which shares a building with owner Wisconsin Athletic Club, was another driving force that has helped spark redevelopment in TIF No. 8, according to Dorner. Progress on that site, which was once the home of Stolper Steel/Western Industries, was delayed for years as it required extensive environmental cleanup.

"For me what it comes down to is the eye test" with redevelopment TIFs, said trustee Steve Raymonds, who also sits on the Plan Commission. "You've got TIFs 6 and 8 where people were driving down the freeway and it was horrible. This is not quick, (but) seeing the difference really helps out."

Rising property values

As of year-end 2013, TIFs in Menomonee Falls have added a total of about $420 million in new property value created by development within the three closed and eight active districts.

TIF No. 3, which contains the Silver Spring Corporate Park, which blossomed thanks mostly to the development of Kohl's Corporate, closed in 2007 with a base value that exceeded its 1995 value by $124.4 million. More recently, TIF No. 2, which contains portions of Village Centre, closed at more than double its value at $50.5 million.

Aside from the value added, Dorner pointed to economic growth resulting from added jobs TIFs create as another reason the use of TIFs is working in Menomonee Falls.

"We still have a good inventory across all sectors for development and redevelopment," Dorner said. "It's a little easier to market these outlots based on the qualitative stuff too, such as the revamped image along the freeway and the added employment opportunities."

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