Growth Up to Developers, Not Up to City, Halverson Says
By Brandi Makuski City-Times Editor
With frustrations running high over the first of two proposed large- scale housing developments, Mayor Andrew Halverson said he’s trying to quell public concerns over the city’s role in the project slated for the old Cooper Motor site on Division Street.
“As mayor, it’s not my place to determine whether we need or don’t need apartments,” he said in a phone interview.
“If developers are willing to put up millions of dollars, they are the ones who are going to have to secure financing for those projects.”
The Cooper Motor site is intended to be a mix of retail and residential space, Halverson said, and it’s the kind of project the city wants along the Division Street corridor.
“We need to target that kind of redevelopment,” he said.
Some members of the finance committee contest they were lead to believe the commercial aspect of this project would take priority over the residential, and Halverson said at a recent committee meeting he had no real way to answer those concerns yet.
“I would be cautious about approving a housing development in a location we were told was primarily commercial,” said Alderman Mike Wiza.
But Halverson said the developer, Smet Construction, wanted the housing units- likely to be filled by UW students- filled before bringing in commercial tenants.
“Don’t ask me why (the commercial aspect) isn’t a priority. Talk to the developer,” he said.
That developer, Paul Belschner, the listed agent of Stevens Point Housing Solutions, LLC, explained the company’s hopes for the project.
“We’ve already begun to try and line up retail tenants, but the retail environment hasn’t been vibrant the past couple of years,”Belschner told the city council.
“I don’t want to sit here and promise I can build a retail environment that I don’t have a tenant for.”
Halverson said the city council members would need to consider the phase one housing aspect under the condition of being completed in 12 months.
Phase two, the retail developments, would follow, with 30 months for completion, thereby opening up new jobs for the area.
When asked to respond to the question as to whether his office prioritized new housing developments over the creation of new jobs in the midst of so much recent job loss, Halverson replied, “to insinuate we’re focused on housing creation over job creation is totally incorrect.”
“This would be‘revitalization TIF district’, and we want to prioritize job creation in the city, but jobs creation is not a priority of a revitalization district,” Halverson said.