Joining the Tax Rolls? City Reconsiders Selling Edgewater Manor
Edgewater Manor on Water Street. (City-Times photo)
Sale to private entity could turn building into money-maker, putting Edgewater on the tax rolls.
By Brandi Makuski
More than a year after turning down the sale of Edgewater Manor, the Stevens Point Common Council has now agreed to consider unloading the property, located at 1450 Water Street.
City leaders say needed repairs will be too costly for rent revenues to cover and taxpayers can’t bear the additional tax burden.
Despite objection from about half a dozen Edgewater residents, along with other city residents, the Council agreed to release an RFP (request for proposal), to determine what interest area developers might have in the property. The Council agreed to consider ideas ranging from renovation, sale to a private entity and demolition.
“Last time we looked at the potential sale of this property we had a revenue positive for the year, however that was before we ran into the facade issue, which adds about $70,000-$80,000 annually for the debt service payment annually,” said Community Development Director Michael Ostrowski, adding the city would need to borrow just over $3 million to repair the building’s water-logged exterior facade and update interior apartments. The building is about 50 years old and is currently owed outright by the city after previous debt service was paid off about a year ago.
Edgewater Manor is an 81- unit apartment building catering to income- eligible seniors. According to Ostrowski nearly half of the current tenants qualify for income vouchers to offset the $533 rent.
The last time the city considered selling the property, the building was 38 percent vacant and operating at a loss. The Council at that time turned down offers from two different parties before agreeing to hire Candlewood Management last November to take over operations of the facility.
But Ostrowski said residency has shown no marked improvement, with vacancy now at 35 percent.
“You have the ultimate authority as to whether to Redevelopment Authority can sell that property,” Ostrowski told the Council. “I don’t think it’d be wise to draft and release an RFP without the Council behind it.”
New projections based on the current residency trends put the city back in the red, but Ostrowski told the Council it could be avoided if the RFP asked developers to propose ideas for the building, to include redevelopment, outright sale and tearing the building down.
Alderman Mike Wiza said he’d heard “rumors” that the facade wasn’t in as much disrepair as the Council was being presented. He and Alderman Jerry Moore asked for a second opinion, saying it was hard to believe the facade was in need of replacement. Ostrowski said a mason expert from the state has looked over the structural report from the city’s contractor, engineering firm W.J. Higgens, and while the expert he hadn’t physically inspected the building, Ostrowski said he came to the same conclusion as W.J. Higgens, saying the expert called it “the worst he’d seen in 18 years”. Ostrowski did note the city would have to pay a fee for the expert to do an onsite inspection.
The $3.2 million price tag for building repairs and updates include some interior remodeling, to include air conditioning, new flooring and updated appliances, something Alderman Roger Trebiatowski said weren’t warranted.
“Apparently some of the residents have concerns about replacing toilets, sinks, etc. – they don’t feel it’s necessary,” Trebiatowski said.
“Some people may think its fine, but we do have a 35 percent vacancy,” Ostrowski said. “We cannot continue to operate with that.”
Edgewater residents had a hard time hearing the news, with many lashing out at the mayor, who was referred to by one man as the “big bad wolf with ice in his veins”.
“I don’t understand why we’re here again,” said Henry Korger of Stevens Point. “You voted this down last year, and I think you need to consider that each of you may someday be looking for affordable apartments like these.”
“I thought we were done with living in limbo,” said Edgewater resident Victor Dechant. “I told you last year not to approve this, and you didn’t. I don’t know what you people are thinking, going along with a big bad wolf mayor who’s got ice in his veins and a cold heart.”
Both Mayor Andrew Halverson and Ostrowski stressed the importance of considering the bigger picture, pointing out the city could not sustain the building as is. The city already subsidizes rent and pays for a large portion of cable television fees for the residents, as well as housekeeping and maintenance fees and 7 percent of the collected rents each month to Candlewood for managing the property. Halverson added if the building remained under ownership of the city, the $3.2 million needed to complete repairs would need to be borrowed against the building, putting the city into further debt.
“So please let there not be rumors that the city somehow have not been subsidizing the operations of that building, significantly, to its own detriment, and its own loss of opportunities,” Halverson said. “For the residents of Edgewater, please understand that this city has invested hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars subsidizing the rent that you enjoy and the building you get a chance to call home. It’s not as if the city hasn’t been subsidizing this building, it just hasn’t been subsidizing it with tax dollars- and that’s the big difference. Should the (building) revenue not cover that debt, the taxpayers of the City of Stevens Point would have to cover that debt, which would be a shortfall in that case. A lot of folks will say, ‘well, that’s what our senior deserve, that’s what we should be doing for the residents that have lived here many, many years’. I don’t disagree that we owe the senior citizens of this community a great deal, I respect them immensely where you recognize that or not, or find symbolic ways to discuss who I am.”
Alderman Randy Stroik was the sole no vote. The remaining alderpersons- Jerry Moore, Mike Phillips, Tony Patton, Roger Trebiatowski, Jeremy Slowinski, Mark Stroik, Mike Wiza, Michael O’Meara and George Doxtator- approved the RFP release, which Ostrowski said should be back in about 90 days. City leaders will consider all options presented in October.