Monday, July 17, 2006

City to put out new, stronger RFP for development, post Five Rivers

During this Wednesday’s Redevelopment Authority meeting, it is expected that a new Request for Proposals “format” will be approved. It is said to be written with stronger language and include more stringent requirements for developers to meet in setting forth proposals to the City of Oshkosh.

One of those new requirements – within the Budget and Financing section of the RFP – states that a developer must provide to the City a ‘Sources & Uses of Funds’ worksheet that “shows where monies would be coming from to cover both the construction phase as well as permanent financing phase of the project.”

Additionally, the RFP also requires that any developer proposing a project in the Marion-Pearl zone area provide the City with “information to demonstrate that the developer has the financial resources to complete the entire project.”

Given how things previously went with Five Rivers developer Tom Doig, these changes are improvements to insure some taxpayer protection.

It is, however, disappointing that the City still is dangling the TIF carrot out there. According to an article by Alex Hummel in the Oshkosh Northwestern, “The city notes it still has its nearly $16 million tax-incremental financing plan on the table. The TIF district lays out more than $9 million in public amenities in the Marion-Pearl zone, including creation of a new river walk, improved sea wall and parking and street improvements. The new RFP also lays out the potential for a “developer assistance grant” to any prospective developer. But the size of the “DAG” – Five Rivers was in line for a $3.1 million to $3.8 million shot of direct cash assistance – will depend on the development.”

This is riverfront property and, like many others in this community, I am not convinced that it actually meets the definition of what is actually “TIF material,” if you will. Why is our city administration so afraid of trying to get development without offering up TIF money every time they turn around? I maintain that the administration has previously and continues to use TIFs as a crutch, and if we are going to be strong and successful we had better learn to draw on other things – just as so many other communities do, some because they have no choice – or we are going to reach our TIF limit and then may find ourselves at an economic development standstill because we have not thought outside of the box. All we’ve done is offer a wheelbarrow full of money to developers in order to entice them in.

City administration still sees this particular area as “appropriate for a mix of commercial and residentially oriented land uses, with commercial development well suited near Jackson Street. Residential condominiums combined with commercial land uses, hotel and/or condo/hotel resort facilities that includes a strong orientation to the riverfront is highly desirable.”

We should be careful to not put too much stock in the condo market. There are only so many condos any one market can handle before it is saturated. Have we learned nothing yet from some of those more unfortunate communities that have tried this before us – and not just around here, but all over the country?

Let’s get the area developed, but let’s be smart about it in the process so we don’t end up with another Five Rivers debacle or white elephants that do nothing but sit empty and complement the many other large, empty retail boxes around town.

- Cheryl


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