City hears presentations from developers for workforce housing plan
The city of Medford has options when it comes to a proposed residential development of a vacant industrial parcel.
At Monday’s committee of the whole meeting, aldermen received presentations from representatives of Oshkoshbased Northpointe Development and from Commonwealth Development Corp. of America of Middleton.
The presentations were in response to a request for proposal from the city to use a federal tax credit program in order to assist with the development of a 4.4 acre parcel north of Northcentral Technical College on Progressive Avenue. The vacant parcel is currently owned by the city.
Under the federal program, developers compete for the 9% tax credits under the low income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program with the applications due in December of each year. The federal tax credits are then used as leverage to secure financing for the construction of the developments. Under each of the proposals, the fate of the project would rest on getting LIHTC. As Henry Houden of Commonwealth Development noted the process is based on points with projects being funded based on the points they have as part of it. For example, having a competitive request for proposal process such as the one the city conducted gives five points. Points are also offered for the amenities available or for proximity to educational facilities.
Both plans call for the development of the parcel into a 40-unit apartment complex which will have a mixture of 1, 2, and three bedroom apartments. While targeted to be low to moderate income “workforce” housing in order to qualify for the tax credit program, they will be open to anyone and also designed to accommodate accessibility needs of seniors. In addition, each proposal includes space for a “clubhouse” including recreational center and common room for gatherings or events, playground spaces and individual parking garages for all residents.
Differences between the proposals include how they envision using the space on the lot and their long-term management plans.
Houden of Commonwealth Development walked council members through his company’s proposal highlighting their lengthy experience in working with this program. Commonwealth has similar projects in 17 states and is vertically integrated with designers, developers, general contractors and long term management all as divisions of their company. He explained that this allows them to be receptive to the needs of the communities in which they build and to market forces. He also noted that their specific niche is the 40 to 50-unit developments in rural communities such as Medford.
For example, in response to increases in the price of building materials and the space available on the parcel, Houden proposed a development that would see twostory structures rather than single-story structures.
The proposal calls for the construction of 16-unit buildings on the north and south edges of the property with an eight-unit building on the eastern edge along Progressive Ave. The clubhouse community room building would be next to the smaller building with a playground area adjacent to that. All the apartment buildings would be two-story walk up with a common entrance for each four-unit space with apartments either on the first or second floor. The entire complex would be fenced.
In addition there would be garages in the center of the parcel with each unit having a garage space they could use either for parking a car or for storage. Plans also include additional outdoor parking with 60 stalls.
According to Houden, the company has done its homework in researching the needs of the community and feels there is a demand for this sort of housing complex. “We have seen a demand, otherwise we wouldn’t be here,” he said.
The developer would be responsible for snow removal in the complex. Alderman Mike Bub asked about the use of local contractors. Houden responded that they try to do at least 25% of the project with local contractors. He gave the example of the ongoing landscaping maintenance as an area where local contractors are used frequently.
Under the Commonwealth proposal, the city would transfer the land to the developer as part of the project involvement with the company handling the applications and everything else.
Northpointe representatives appeared by Zoom and reviewed their vision for the project plan.
As with Commonwealth, Northpointe has many years of experience in working with the federal tax credit program. They also proposed a 40-unit development that was a mixture of one, two and three bedroom units. However, their plans call for a single-story cottage style of construction. This would break down to eight one bedroom units, 14 two bedroom units and 18 three bedroom units in five buildings located along the northern, southern and western edges of the properties. Each unit would have an attached single car garage as well as additional stall parking places. A common room, patio and play area would be located on the southern portion of the property. They explained that the apartments measure about 1,000 square feet with the three bedroom apartments having two full bathrooms. They said the design is one that works well for both families and seniors.
Northpointe presenters noted that they utilize green building techniques and would not be using things such as vinyl siding. Rather, they will use a cement board product in a variety of finishes.
A key difference with Northpointe is that after the building is completed, they will work with an independent property management company to run the apartment complex in the future. They explained that going with a third-party firm for management allows them to not get as emotionally attached in making management decisions and run it on a business model. The goal they said is to have it at 97 to 98% capacity.
Their project timeline calls for submission of the LIHTC application next December with notification of award in April 2022. They said construction could begin by fall of 2022 and take a year with a stable occupancy projected by the end of 2023.
While both projects rely on the LIHTC as part of their approximately $9 million project costs, the Northpointe plan calls for the developer to purchase the parcel from the city at a price of $55,000 which was based on the fair market price of similar land in the area.
Following the presentations, council members met in closed session for about 20 minutes to review and discuss the presentations. No decision was reached on which company to partner with for the project.
In other business, aldermen:
_ Recommended appointing mayor Mike Wellner, and aldermen Chrissy Weix and Tim Hansen to serve on the county’s transitional housing committee. Wellner noted the committee already met once and is looking at locations for a transitional housing facility.
_ Recommended Wellner, Laura Holmes, Doug Gasek, Jacki Jentzsch and Brenda Hedlund serve on the park project committee. City coordinator Joe Harris will move to an ex officio position on the committee. Wellner said the consultants they are working with have recommended meetings every two weeks during the start of the project to keep the project moving forward.
_ Recommended the purchase of a replacement patrol truck for the public works department from Midstates Trucking at a cost of $167,126 the price includes the chassis, dump box and plow blades. The city estimated the sale price of their existing plow truck at between $25,000 and $32,000. The Midstates bid was the only one received by the city with vendors noting they have been unable to get vehicles. The truck is expected to be delivered by December 2021.
_ Recommended approval of the pool wages for the coming year with the returning pool employees getting a bump in pay and new employees starting at the base rate of $7.50 per hour. There was also discussion of pool operations last year. Due to COVID-19 the city had limited pool access to only those with a pass and 50% capacity. According to Avery Apfelbeck, one of the senior lifeguards, this worked out well and was never an issue as far as additional people wanting to get in. She suggested that additional rules be put in place to limit the number of younger children that can accompany a teenager without a parent present. She gave the example of a 14-year-old who was there with a three-year-old and a six-year-old. She suggested that the age be raised to 16 for those coming with young children on their own.