The Village of Mount Pleasant deeded over 787 acres last week to FEWI Development Corp., the developer for the Foxconn Technology Group project, for about $37 million.
Despite a federal lawsuit being filed against the village by a number of neighbors that haven’t sold, the village is expected to oversee the bid process for the demolition and excavation work.
Foxconn Technology Group is made up of three companies: FEWI, SIO International Wisconsin Inc, and AFE Inc. All three organizations are either part of the Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., or SIO International Holdings, which qualified for $2.85 billion in tax credits in exchange for it to create 13,000 positions and make a capital investment of $10 billion.
M+W Gilbane, the general contractor on the project, is expected to start clearing the site in preparation for the formal groundbreaking ceremony, which will likely happen before the end of the summer.
“We are committed to and passionate about putting Wisconsin first,” said Adam Jelen, Senior Vice President, Wisconsin, Gilbane Building Company. “Right out of the gate, these first bid awards reflect our passion for building capacity in local workforce and businesses.
The Foxconn campus will include multiple buildings totaling 22 million square feet on a 1,000-acre parcel. The project is expected to generate $31 million per year in new property tax revenue, which is expected to pay for all of the public improvements and development costs incurred by the tax increment district.
Read more about the project: Foxconn building in Mount Pleasant.
The total project investment for the building project is $764 million, which is funded by Foxconn through TIF-related payments. This includes $168 million for land acquisition, of which Foxconn is paying $60 million to complete the land purchase. The company plans to make Thin Film Transistors (TFTs), which help improve the image quality of Liquid Crystal Displays (LCDs) for the electronics industry.
“The proposed facility is intended to be the centerpiece of a larger, transformative initiative to spur the creation of a U.S.-based ecosystem around next-generation 8K resolution standards related (to) 5G transmission development,” according to the filings Foxconn submitted to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.
Some neighbors holding out could have properties blighted
While work is moving forward, a number of property owners have not had their land purchased by the Village because they do not fit within the parameters of eminent domain for the public improvement portion of the project. And the Village is holding a meeting May 9 to discuss declaring the property blighted.
Read more: Property owners living in wake of Foxconn told home could be condemned.
The term “blight” is not used within the tax increment finance (TIF) district document passed by the Mount Pleasant Village Board in November, but it does refer to the statute.
Under the state’s Blight Elimination and Clearance Act, properties can be purchased for redevelopment or urban renewal projects for fair market value. Although the law defines blight as run-down or unsafe property, there is some wiggle room for properties to be condemned for redevelopment and urban renewal projects for private corporations, said Ed Fallone, an associate professor with the Marquette University Law School.
“The U.S. Supreme Court decided that the word ‘blight’ is a term of art and that legislatures can define the word any way they want without turning the taking into a violation of the U.S. Constitution. That was in the 2005 case of Kelo v. The City of New London. So as a matter of the U.S. Constitution, it appears that the (Mount Pleasant) government can do this,” Fallone said.
But Wisconsin State statutes — which were amended following the Kelo decision — also prohibit single-family homes that are occupied and not in a high-crime rate area from being designated as blighted.
“Wisconsin modified its law to provide that unblighted property cannot be taken by eminent domain (Wis. Stat. section 32.03(6)(a)&(b)), and an argument can be made that it defeats the purpose of this amendment if Racine defines ‘blight’ so broadly,” Fallone said.
What’s happening next with Foxconn project?
Despite those neighbors filing a federal lawsuit, the Village is moving forward with the project.
The Village of Mount Pleasant announced is accepting bids for the demolition work. The work is being split up into two phases, demolition work for the properties north of Braun Road and one for South of Braun Road.
“Our first bid for demolition work is just the next big step forward for the Village to prepare for construction of Foxconn’s manufacturing campus,” said David DeGroot, Village of Mount Pleasant President. “We are excited to see the transformation of the project area in the coming weeks, months and years.”
In a quarterly earnings call with investors earlier this week, Gale Klappa, chairman and CEO of WEC Energy Group Inc., framed the excavation project like this:
“If you take a standard football field, the 100-yard football field, enough earth has to be moved to basically fill that football field 1,475 times, means it’s just an enormous, enormous project. So, basically, all of the field work will begin in just a few weeks,” he said.
The demolition work is expected to take until August 19 to complete.