Appleton offers $4.4 million in public assistance to support revamp of City Center Plaza

Developers plan to revitalize and rebrand City Center Plaza in downtown Appleton as Fox Commons.

Developers plan to revitalize and rebrand City Center Plaza in downtown Appleton as Fox Commons.

APPLETON – The city, Dark Horse Development and The Boldt Co. announced plans last week to transform City Center Plaza into Fox Commons, a mixed-use development that will serve as a gateway between the downtown and the neighborhood north of College Avenue.

The 180,000-square-foot Fox Commons at 10 E. College Ave. will offer housing, health care and wellness services, retail space, commercial offices, and food and beverage outlets, according to a joint news release.

“A project as ambitious as this one, reimagining a downtown mall, requires vision, hard work, commitment to the community, and most important of all, partnership,” Mayor Jake Woodford said. “The city of Appleton is proud to be a partner in this exciting project.”

What the release didn’t say is how much the partnership will cost the public.

A development agreement that will be considered by the Community & Economic Development Committee this week shows Appleton would commit nearly $4.4 million in public funds as a development incentive.

The money would be funded through Tax Incremental Financing District 11 and would be paid over time — estimated at 15 years — as sufficient property taxes on the new development are collected.

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How much will the project be worth?

The redevelopment is estimated to cost $33.6 million. However, the city assessor estimates the assessed value of the completed project will be $17.3 million.

The difference between the construction costs and the assessed value is due primarily to a 35,000-square-foot condominium that will be owned by a nonprofit, tax-exempt entity.

Cole Alsbach, vice president of operations for Dark Horse, confirmed to The Post-Crescent that the condominium will house Mosaic Family Health. Additionally, a floor plan shows Mosaic as an anchor on the north side of the building.

Mosaic is a downtown clinic that provides health care to underserved populations in the Fox Valley. It is currently located at 229 S. Morrison St., on land sought by U.S. Venture for its new corporate headquarters.

Mosaic received more than $7.7 million through the American Rescue Plan Act to fund the relocation and expansion of its clinic.

How was the city’s contribution determined?

The incremental value of the project is projected to be $15.3 million ($17.3 million end value minus the $2 million start value). The city’s contribution is calculated as 16.4% of the increment, or $2.5 million in present value.

The incentive would be paid over time and account for the developer’s carrying costs at an estimated interest rate of 7%. The development agreement says the total payments from the city shall not exceed $4,357,550.

Alsbach said the public assistance is necessary for the project to proceed.

“The city’s partnership is required on this project,” Alsbach said. “We appreciate the support they’ve given us thus far and look to continuing that partnership as we move forward through these approvals.”

Fox Commons is envisioned as a hub of activity in downtown Appleton.

Fox Commons is envisioned as a hub of activity in downtown Appleton.

What does the investment get the city?

Alex Brewer, vice president of real estate at Boldt, envisions Fox Commons becoming “an urban hub in the center of a thriving central business district.”

“We hope this project will be a catalyst for others to invest in downtown and attract continued growth in the area,” Brewer said.

As part of the development agreement, city staff negotiated provisions designed to benefit Appleton. The provisions include:

  • A pedestrian easement to allow access to and from City Center East, City Center West, City Center Street and College Avenue.

  • A pedestrian orientation for first-level entrances and tenant spaces adjacent to College Avenue and for the main entrance to City Center Street.

  • A prohibition on converting any housing units to tourism room houses.

What are the next steps in the project?

The Community & Economic Development Committee will make a recommendation on the development agreement this week. The Common Council is scheduled to vote on the agreement on June 7.

If approved, Dark Horse and Boldt, working as co-developers, would buy the property in July and begin redevelopment shortly thereafter.

Brewer said a majority of the work would be finished by summer 2024.

Do we know who the other tenants will be?

The floor plan identifies three other leased spaces, but Brewer said he was several weeks away from announcing the tenants.

Contact Duke Behnke at 920-993-7176 or Follow him on Twitter at @DukeBehnke.

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This article originally appeared on Appleton Post-Crescent: Appleton offers $4.4 million to support remake of City Center Plaza

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