Follow Us

The public part of the Machinery Row project took a step forward with a grant while the developer of the private portion of the project will be given more time to sort out development issues.

Machinery Row developer Rodney Blackwell, owner of the FDP MR LLC, will donate half of the 5.57 acres along the Root River between Marquette and 4th streets to the City. Plans include redeveloping the property for a Root River promenade.

In a 13 to 1 vote, the Common Council approved a resolution that allows the city to accept a $470,750 Knowles-Nelson grant from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to acquire the city’s portion of the project for a promenade along the Root River. The total cost of the 5.57 acres is estimated to cost $937,000.

“The grant will be used to purchase public lands,” said Tom Friedel, city administrator. “This is for the land along the Root River between Marquette and 4th streets along the waterway. The city gets the grant once the city acquires the property. Once that happens, the city is reimbursed from the DNR.”

Alderman Sandy Weidner voted against accepting the grant.

Machinery Row Developer Receives Extension

The Common Council also approved an amended developer agreement, which allows Blackwell additional time to secure a loan and resolve development issues. The extension calls on Blackwell to pay the city $22,500 in quarterly interest payments of 1 percent for the mortgage escrow.

This is the second extension of the project, a sore spot for some Common Council members.

The project is part of a larger project that will include residential, commercial, professional, recreational, dining and entertainment facilities. The 50-acre property called Machinery Row includes a 20-acre parcel that encompasses 712, 820, 800, 900, and 101 Water St., which will become the first phase of the project.

The remaining 20-acre parcel will including building at least four new buildings, keeping two historic buildings and demolishing the rest.

Alderman Debate Extension Request

Some aldermen felt like Blackwell wasn’t committed enough to the project. However, other aldermen argued that a four month extension should be granted to ensure that the city could obtain $9 million in tax credits.

Alderman Michael Shields, who voted against the extension, argued that Blackwell has “no skin in the game” on the project. He told the board that it was time for the Common Council to back out of the deal.

Alderman Sandy Weidner argued that Blackwell was using the money the city loaned to him to buy the Azarian property to pay himself a property management fee.

But Alderman Jeff Coe disagreed with Weidner saying that there were 9 million reasons to grant the extension because the city would lose $9 million in tax credits.

“He’s bringing another partner on board,” said Alderman Ray DeHahn. “He’s just finishing a project in Milwaukee and this is too important not to support. If we lose the $9 million, they aren’t coming back.”

Now that the extension and grant have been approved, the land deal is expected to be completed soon, Friedel said.

Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.