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If all goes as planned, a new chapter in re-development of vacant and blighted property in the city of Merrill may be opened as early as later this year.

The city’s Redevelopment Authority (RDA) wrote the first page of that chapter Tuesday morning, in unanimously approving prospective property purchases. First on deck was that of the former Fox Point Sportswear property located at 1905 E. 14th St. (CTH G).

As city administrator Dave Johnson explained, a proposal on the RDA’s table called for razing of the current blighted building on the property, followed by the development of a prospective three-pod residential apartment complex totaling 60 units (20 units each).

The project would be under the oversight of the Merrill Housing Authority (MHA) and Madison-based Horizon Design Build Manage Inc.

In addition, the project would be contingent on acquisition of Wisconsin Housing & Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) tax credits by the MHA, consistent with those acquired with the recently-announced Park Place and related property expansion.

Obtaining WEHEDA tax credits is a competitive application process. The Merrill Housing Authority/Horizon application must be submitted by the end of June 2016 to be eligible for tax credits that will be awarded in April 2017.

“This development would consist of two- and three-bedroom units in a prime location for residential development,” Johnson stated. “The location is close to the high school, readily accessible to Prairie Dells Park and Church Mutual which is one of our major employers. Nine units would be rented at market value and the remaining 51 units would be income-based housing. This is the type of housing people want, and Merrill needs to get rid of the current, rather run-down housing we have in the city.”
City Finance Director Kathy Unertl echoed Johnson’s sentiments in terms of prime location.

“This is a key opportunity for re-development on the city’s east side and is in close proximity to four major employers,” she said.

The RDA recommended a resolution for acquisition of the property for $450,000. The current owner would be responsible for demolition of the existing building. Following acquisition of the property, the city would then move forward with transferring ownership to MHA and a TIF development incentive of $527,000 for the purpose of contributing to the building and construction cost of the project. The property is located in TID No. 10.

If the proposal were to progress as planned, with the acquisition of WHEDA tax credits and remain under oversight of the MHA, the project would not be required to submit to the Request for Proposal process (RFP). However, if the tax credit acquisition were to fail, the city would then proceed with the RFP process.

The RDA also unanimously approved purchase of vacant property for a Pocket Park on East Main Street. According to Johnson, the city has acquired the former Guy’s Shop property at 913 E. Main St. from Lincoln Community Bank for a purchase price of $10,000. The adjacent parcel – owned by Merrill Federal Savings & Loan – comes with a proposed price tag of $3,000.

The RDA recommendations will proceed for approval from the Common Council on Tuesday, June 14.