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Developer sees restaurants, offices at Famous Footwear site

Dec. 21, 2006

WHITEFISH BAY - A pair of restaurants plus offices in a two-story building have been conceptually proposed for the Famous Footwear and vacant Talbots at 325 E. Silver Spring Drive.

The Community Development Authority is reviewing the plan.

The concept includes a request for $2.3 million in village funding. The property is in a tax-incremental financing district.

Tax-incremental financing is a mechanism that allows municipalities to borrow money to fund infrastructure improvements for an area that otherwise would be difficult to develop or redevelop. Money that would ordinarily be used to pay taxes on the increased value of the property is diverted from the tax roll to pay off the loan.

Developer requests a loan

The developer, Boulder Venture, which also built the recently completed bank/luxury condominium building at 5600 N. Lake Drive, projects an 18-year payback for the funding.

The CDA is reviewing that estimate, looking to possibly shorten the loan period.

The proposed restaurant/office building would eventually add an estimated $10 million to the tax base, according to Boulder Venture calculations. The total value of the property would become $11.6 million, the firm estimates.

The proposed building would have underground parking because the building itself would cover the Famous Footwear parking lot.

The proposal envisions two restaurants. One would be about the size of the Heinemann's Restaurant that closed across the street, which was roughly 4,000 square feet, and another at 5,000 square feet, Village Manager James Grassman said.

The Village Board would have to approve building plans and the proposed financing.

Three establishments

The owners of the building that contained Heinemann's Restaurant also are looking for an eatery to replace it.

"We have talked to a number of restaurateurs and we've been talking to one a little more seriously," said Rick Zimbric, one of the owners of the building.

Something might come about in a couple of months, he said.

Zimbric said the street could potentially support three restaurants, but they would have to be the right kind.

"If the restaurants are good, people will come from out of the area. If the neighborhood has to support them, no, it can't support three," Zimbric said.

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