Hansen Storage Co. wants to build warehouses and offices in Wauwatosa at a site where plans for an affordable housing project ended a year ago.
The Wauwatosa Common Council voted 8-5 on March 21 to grant a permit for Hansen Storage to start a warehouse operation at 1300 Glenview Place, where developer General Capitol Group wanted to build apartment units, Wauwatosa Mayor Dennis McBride told The Daily Reporter.
Hansen Storage wants to build two warehouse buildings and an office building at 1300 Glenview Place, city plans showed. Hansen will occupy part of the buildings and lease the rest of the space out to other businesses who want storage.
The Wauwatosa Common Council approved a zoning change for a multi-family residential development at the same address in 2022, but the plan didn’t move forward as the project became infeasible, city officials said.
McBride said it was more difficult to put financing together for affordable housing in Wauwatosa and the city wanted more housing. The mayor added that interest rates, inflation and rising labor costs hampered developments for many communities across the state.
“We’re disappointed that the financing couldn’t come together on this, we wish it could have been a housing project. We understand there is a housing shortage for everyone, particularly for people who are looking for affordable housing. We tried to provide that, but it’s a tough interest rate environment. Not just for affordable housing, but for market rate developments as well,” McBride said.
Joel Tilleson, an alderperson representing the 5th District, urged the city to wait for better options to come.
“I don’t think it would be out of line for anyone to believe that a short-term delay here won’t result in a better option for this land versus foreclosing those options with a long-term fix,” Tilleson said at the meeting.
Other members said they voted to approve so the site wouldn’t remain vacant.
“I’m not in favor of (Hansen moving in,) but I’m even more not in favor of this area being vacant. Being on a railroad line, being along the river, it’s nothing but trouble looking at us. I’m disappointed we’re not going forward with the housing project for this site… We do have control that we can let Hansen go in for the time being,” Alderperson John Dubinski, who represents the 2nd District, said at the meeting.
On March 7, Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley announced nearly $10 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to finance affordable housing development, including Cornerstone Village and MSP Real Estate Inc. in Wauwatosa. The city will provide tax incremental financing to both projects, McBride said.
MSP’s development will use Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority tax credits, a loan from a federal home loan bank and a subsidy from a private developer, McBride added.
“It’s not just interest rates, it’s inflation. The cost of labor and materials keeps going up too. It’s a moving target for developers,” McBride said.
The city experienced a wave of redevelopment two decades ago, but there are only a few sites left for development, McBride said.
A state law to limit municipal budgets puts stress on redeveloping underused properties and the state municipal financing structure was difficult for all municipalities, McBride said.
“Some communities have already hit the fiscal cliff and Wauwatosa could be headed there in four to five years without development of this sort. Every community is under financial stress right now in Wisconsin,” McBride said.
To bridge the fiscal gap, some communities have tried referendums for certain projects such as schools, while others explored transportation as a utility service – meaning taxpayers would pay for usage of the city’s roads the same way they would for water. The latter is being considered in Wauwatosa, McBride added.