ELLSWORTH – When Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Team Member Kim Beebe gave a Design Ellsworth presentation Monday, Aug. 2 to the Ellsworth Village Board, developer Paul Gerrard …
ELLSWORTH – When Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Team Member Kim Beebe gave a Design Ellsworth presentation Monday, Aug. 2 to the Ellsworth Village Board, developer Paul Gerrard expressed his enthusiasm because his proposed project seems to fit well with the community’s direction.
Gerrard followed Beebe’s presentation with his own request, for the village board to support a letter to the Wisconsin Housing & Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) for an Innovative Housing Set Aside application in regards to a development project proposed for Crossing Meadows.
Gerrard is proposing to build 50 singlestory townhouses with attached garages, located on property at the dead end of Alexander Boulevard in Crossing Meadows. Gerrard Companies received zoning approval from the village in 2019 on that parcel.
“This design would be very similar to the Crossing Meadows apartment townhouses,” Gerrard said. “The larger units would have two-car attached garages.”
He anticipates the construction costs to be somewhere around $10 million, he said in an email to The Journal.
Gerrard Companies submitted a workforce housing application to WHEDA last year, but the application fell one point short of being funded. According to WHEDA, developments compete to receive affordable housing tax credits through a highly competitive application process. The developments must meet high design and operating standards. The scoring system awards points to applications for “strong management, excellent development quality, demonstrated market need, provision of support services and amenities, proximity to economic opportunities and proper local zoning.” The demand is always higher than the number of credits available, so projects must meet a list of criteria and be scored.
According to the Milwaukee Business Journal, developers in Wisconsin compete annually for about $16 million in federal and $7 million is state housing tax credits that support apartments/housing for low-income renters. Last year, WHEDA awarded credits that supported 2,039 affordable apartments.
WHEDA is now accepting applications from developers with innovative, affordable housing projects “designed to spark community revitalization and promote resident wellbeing” for a new round of federal 9 percent housing tax credits.
In order to apply for these credits, Gerrard needs the village’s support, which they voted unanimously to give. The board also voted to begin looking into Tax Increment Finance funding options and zoning for the area.
“The state wants to know, is the village behind it?” Gerrard said. “Is there a community there? Is TIF available? Are there other resources available for residents besides the development itself?” Gerrard said the application is for $800,000 in annual credits that would provide $7 million of investor equity for the project.
“The project would have a first mortgage of somewhere around $3 million,” Gerrard said. “I anticipate the development agreement would have a minimum development assessment of $3.5 million dollars for the purposes of requesting TIF assistance.”
Gerrard said the development would also include additional services for residents.
“We would also be looking to seek an operator to incorporate and operate a daycare facility that would be open to the public as well,” Gerrard said. “As I indicated earlier, we are retooling the current application that was previously submitted back in December 2020. This new amended application would have new, additional services and amenities incorporated into it.” The new application is due by Sept. 3.
Gerrard said Pierce Pepin Cooperative Services’ launch of high-speed broadband through SwiftCurrent Connect will allow the application to gain point, as will the Design Ellsworth initiative’s village revitalization plans.
The site plan will see a slight amendment, Gerrard added. The proposed community room could house an incubator space for residents’ businesses.
“Housing tax credits are a critical tool in financing affordable housing and the launch of the innovation round this year demonstrates WHEDA’s commitment to new approaches,” said WHEDA CEO Joaquin Altoro in a news release. “As housing needs continue to evolve, WHEDA is adapting its programs to drive equity and economic opportunity throughout Wisconsin.”
Gerrard said WHEDA Will award $1.6 million of federal 9 percent housing tax credits to two projects, with award requests capped at $800,000.
WHEDA has been the administrator for federal affordable housing tax credits in Wisconsin since the program began in 1986 and since the state program began in 2018. The programs provide tax incentives, through the Internal Revenue Code and the Wisconsin tax code, that encourage developers to build affordable housing. In exchange for the tax credits, developers agree to use all or a part of the project for lowand moderate-income households for at least 30 years. Remaining units are rented at market rates. The developers sell the tax credits to private investors to get funding. Once the housing is built and available to tenants, investors can claim the tax credit as a dollar-for-dollar reduction of federal or Wisconsin income taxes owed over a 10-year period.
Gerrard told the board the Innovative Housing Set Aside is slanted toward urban projects, but he feels it fits Ellsworth after talking to Pierce County Economic Development Executive Director Joe Folsom. The new development would be integrated within an existing neighborhood, help revitalize a distressed TID (Shopko vacated its building, which is for sale), and help alleviate the need for affordable housing in the community.
Gerrard said the units’ rent would include utilities and snow removal. Other projects Gerrard has completed recently include 1300 S. Main St. and The Depot in River Falls.
Angie Whelan of YB Urban? And the Ellsworth E3 Community Development Corporation asked the board to a consider a proposal to continue the Ellsworth planter project. In May, volunteers put in 80-plus hours designing and painting six stone planters in the East End business district.
“A great sense of pride was felt by those artists,” Whelan said.
The group has requests and financial backing to paint four planters in the mid-town mall district, led by an Ellsworth High School senior.
Whelan said she never realized how many families live in the East End and loved interacting with those who would visit while volunteers painted.
”We felt loads of appreciation,” Whelan said. “They felt cared for by having people down there. We are creating that quality of life by allowing people to participate.”
The proposal will be voted on at the September village board meeting.
•Beebe asked the board to keep the Design Ellsworth report in mind when beginning work on its comprehensive plan. People’s one wish for Ellsworth, according to the report, was overwhelmingly new places, followed by more jobs/businesses and keeping the village’s character intact.
•The board approved the UW-River Falls Standard Research Agreement; the village will work with UWRF to complete its statemandated comprehensive plan.
•The board approved an agreement with Appraisal Services and Data Processing Systems for the village’s 2022-2024 assessments.
•The board approved an ATV route request for Dar, Susan and Beebe streets. The request will be sent back to the Streets & Sidewalk Committee for an ordinance change.
•Interim Public Works Director Mike Huppert stepped down from the job and went back to his former PW position. The village will begin searching for a new public works director.
•The board approved paying utility bills at 388 W. Main St. (site of future Ellsworth Public Library) out of the Library Building Fund temporarily until the utilities can be worked into the annual budget. The utilities total about $21,000 per year.
•Ellsworth Police Chief Eric Ladwig reported there were 251 calls for service in July.
•The village filed a civil lawsuit in Pierce County Circuit Court July 28 against T. Gregory Amann in regards to razing 245 S. Broadway St., Ellsworth.