PORT WASHINGTON - Multi-use development Prairie’s Edge, which will include apartments, homes, commercial space, and a public walking trail, has taken two major steps toward construction.
At its Aug. 1 meeting, the city’s common council passed the development agreement as well as the agreement for the developer, Black Cap Halcyon, LLC to purchase the land along Lake Michigan south of the We Energies plant on Sunset Road.
Alderman John Sigwart, expressed some concern at the start of the discussion with the speed at which the “major decision for the city of Port Washington” was proceeding. He said the council hadn’t discussed the details until that meeting and the documents were received late that afternoon.
When the final vote was taken, Sigwart chose to abstain, saying he’s is in favor of the project but not the way it was taking place in regard to timing.
He was one of two aldermen who abstained. Alderman Mike Gasper abstained before the discussion started because he said his company could potentially be involved with the development.
Construction on the three-phase project is expected to begin in March 2018 with completion anticipated in 2023. Just over 35 acres of land between the top of the lake bluff west to Highway C is being sold to the developer for nearly $2.3 million, which will be paid in installments. Land from the top of the bluff east to the shore of Lake Michigan is not included in the sale.
The development will have 238 residential units broken up into three types — apartments, townhomes and detached homes. The average apartment size is 1,100 square feet, the average townhome size is 2,590 square feet and the detached homes will average 1,700 square feet.
The commercial aspect of the development equals about 40,000 square feet throughout the property. Founder and Principal of Black Cap Halcyon Tony Polston said he wanted to do something different and “complementary to downtown” with the commercial portion.
Currently, some of the types of businesses he’s looking at include an exercise facility and medical service providers, and he personally wants to see a restaurant.
One key feature of the development is the dedication of 5.09 acres as park land by the developer. Within this portion along the lake will be an 8-foot wide paved pedestrian-only recreational trail that will be open to the public. It will be open from sunrise to sunset. The developer will operate it, creating rules for its use.
Polston said the trail is currently planned to be built in the first phase of construction. But he said that could change due to the increasing interest in the single-family homes and he may opt to construct more of those early on.
“It’s clearly an attractive amenity to both the public and those interested in moving in,” Polston said.
A special event structure may also be built on site with a provision to allow it, but not requiring it included in the agreement.
The city will extend sewer and water to the development by July 1, 2018, with the developer responsible to make internal connections. The developer also must provide stormwater, erosion, and grading plans per the agreement.
The Prairie’s Edge development has changed over time. The project originally included 18 single-family cottages, a three-story high-density multifamily building, and more commercial space — an additional 10,000 square feet was originally proposed.
Due to the size and cost of the development, a life insurance policy will be taken out on Polston to ensure the city gets the money for the project. Polston also will get a “management fee” from the city of about $56,000.
Alderman Doug Biggs offered a financial perspective on the development, stating the value is expected to be between $50 million and $58 million which meant between $304,000 and $350,000 in taxes just to the city coming in per year.
Additionally, there are no developer incentives with the project, Biggs said.
Polston said there is “tremendous interest” in the project with some calls coming in from northwest Indiana inquiring about the residential part of the development. He said he’s excited to build something so “special and unique.”
“This is a really special project for a very special piece of land,” Polston said.
Mayor Tom Mlada thanked Polston for helping to remove the moniker of “hidden little gem” from Port Washington. He said this development builds on everything the city wanted to accomplish over the last few years and is an equivalent to another downtown area.
“I appreciate all of your vision,” Mlada said.
Polston said he is still willing to meet with people if they have questions or input, saying he values all input because it makes for a better project.