TIF to Trigger Terrace Transformation

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MTT News Desk's picture
Matt Geiger
One week to the day after the city council moved forward with plans to rebuild Terrace Avenue - a project that includes updating underground utilities - a water main under the street burst. Pictured above, city workers patch the broken pipe.

Plans to use $4.3 million in tax increment financing (TIF) to overhaul Terrace Avenue and its intersection with High Point Road are chugging along following a string of approvals last week by the Middleton Common Council.

Supporters say the two-phase project, which is on track to be carried out in 2013 and 2014, would improve traffic flow, create much-needed parking space, and link the community’s historic downtown with Greenway Station and other commercial hubs west of the Beltline highway. Terrace Avenue’s sidewalks would be adorned with bricks matching those in the downtown, and there will be an opportunity to accommodate public art in at least one location, according to the plan drawn up by Strand Associates.

The common council last week approved a concept that recommends the use of an estimated $1.43 million in TIF for phase 1. Phase 2 would require roughly $2.87 million in TIF.

City administrator Mike Davis said the project would allow Capital Brewery to expand its existing bier garten, provide a “very important” link between retail hubs, and improve traffic circulation and parking “with an eye to” further redevelopment and increased density in Middleton.

Phase 1 would include re-alignment of the intersection of Terrace Avenue and High Point Road, moving it away from Capital Brewery and toward the Beltline highway. The plan also calls for a 44-stall public parking lot adjacent to the intersection, on land freed up by the re-alignment, during the first phase.

City documents show phase 2 including further road reconstruction and utility upgrades.

At its Nov. 20 meeting the council approved an agreement with Strand Associates for a Terrace Avenue topographical survey and traffic count study, at an amount not to exceed $24,200. The deal is subject to re-negotiation on July 1, 2013.

At the same meeting the council approved an agreement with Strand Associates for design engineering for phases 1 and 2, at an amount not to exceed $275,300. That contract is subject to renegotiation on July 1 of 2014.

District 2 alderman Gurdip Brar cast the only votes against both deals, contending that while Terrace Avenue is in need of repair, the plan is a bad fit, an improper use of TIF, and poorly timed.

The council also approved the Terrace Avenue Concept Review and Tax Increment Financing District No. 3 funding for the project, referring the matter to the Middleton Public Works Committee for further discussion. Brar and District 8 alderman Mark Sullivan both voted in the minority on the motion.

Brar said the project should be tackled in the reverse order, starting with the road reconstruction currently contained within phase 2.

“Terrace Avenue has been in bad shape for a long time,” Brar stated. “That’s what people have been clamoring about.”

Brar also questioned whether phase 1 of the project is an appropriate use of public money – regardless of when it takes place.

Alderman Hans Hilbert (Dist. 7) disagreed. He said the project, located in the city’s oldest extant TIF district (TID 3), is probably overdue by as much as two decades.

“In hindsight, maybe back in 1993 this should have been a priority,” Hilbert said. He went on to say the project is designed to work in conjunction with attempts to increase density downtown.

While in the past city leaders often ballyhooed TIF as an economic tool used to fund commercial development that dramatically increases the tax base, alderman Howard Teal defended this particular project’s lack of promised return increment.

“Not everything brings back a dollar bill right away,” Teal said.

Davis implied the improved road and intersection could actually bolster the tax base in an indirect, but nonetheless real, manner. “It’s a philosophy of build it and they will come,” he said.

Hilbert said he believes growth is inevitable and better traffic flow will limit the problems more people – and more cars - would otherwise cause. “They’re going to come,” he commented.

Mike Bidwell, a consultant with Strand, said the project will create a “link” between major attractions in the city.

 Bidwell said the plan includes an “aggressive schedule” that “doesn’t have any slack in it,” urging the council to approve the plan last week so crews will have an opportunity to begin moving dirt by the middle of next year.

The two-phase approach was drafted in part to allow the city to remain within the bounds of its legal limits on tax-exempt borrowing within a calendar year. That limit is $10 million.

Davis called the TIF-funded Terrace Avenue project “necessary road work” that the city can pay for “without additional burdens for the city’s residential property taxpayers.”

Bidwell said the bricks included in the plan for Terrace Avenue will emulate those already in place downtown, creating a “visual connection” that shows people they have arrived in the heart of the Good Neighbor City.

Pending further contract approvals and finalization of the borrowing, the city plans to begin construction on phase 1 in early July of 2013.






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