February 3, 2009

City owes $195,000 in debt service this year on vacant West Racine lot

Rejecting a proposed $7 million affordable housing development in West Racine leaves the city with $195,000 in debt service on the TIF district.

The city spent $2 million in 1996 tearing down old buildings on the site to make way for new development. But the demolition came right as the construction economy tanked, and resulted in few suitors for the land coming forward.

Heather Hammond, of the Seattle-based HammondLand, found the parcel last year and teamed up with the North Carolina-based Landmark Group to propose a 55-unit mixed use development on the site. That project was turned down by the Plan Commission Monday and likely will be rejected by the City Council tonight.

The repercussion of the deal is the city is sitting on a $2 million loan with no source of revenue to pay it back. The TIF district allows the city to collect all tax dollars on any development to pay back the loan, but with no development, there's nothing to collect on.

If the city agreed to the affordable housing development it would have made about $150,000 a year in property taxes to pay down the debt. This year's payment requires $75,000 to be paid on the principal and $120,625 to be paid in interest.

Critics may say the city shouldn't have spent the money to tear down the buildings in the first place. But the real tradeoff is between leaving up decrepit structures with little hope of development, or spending the money to knock them down and attracting a developer to pay off the loan. In 1996, demolition was a good idea. In today's economy, there's not much of a market for even prime real estate (see Pointe Blue).

So the city likely will wait out the down economy and hope an acceptable development comes along. But that may be a tough task in a well-organized neighborhood that is demanding a park. It's up to officials to convince residents the city has already spent $2 million to create that space, and it needs to collect its money back.


  1. They should pass this cost to the people who signed the petition to not have this developed.

  2. Yeah, because those people tore down the buildings in the first place, right?

    It's funny how just a few months ago it was a good idea to gut and rehab old buildings in Uptown (and always has been in Downtown), but that was never a good idea in West Racine.

    Get your stories straight, local politicians and their apologists.

  3. Anon 12:00 44 lets put a slum next to you see how you like it.

    Orbs is right the city should have not touched the building UNTIL they had someone coming it. Becker should not have touched his Cell phone before he knew she was 18.

    and if $$ is the number one issue why does the City go ahead and take every park in the city and put slum dwelling there just think how much we could get in taxes!

  4. As I stated on another post on this issue, poor decision making by the City to start the clock ticking on the TIF by tearing down the buildings before approved development was ready to take on the debt.

    Don't know who's to blame - the mayor, the plan commission? Unfortunately, now citizens will bear the burden.

  5. "Affordable Housing Development"? Let's call it what it really is: low-income housing for those sucking up the government checks. Maybe the city council members would like some of those built across the street from their homes. Maybe we need more Jacato Drive neighborhoods in our community.