Oshkosh Plan Commission clears new TIF district to redevelop Smith School

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OSHKOSH – Members of the City Planning Commission expressed enthusiasm on Tuesday over the creation of a new tax district to help transform the former Smith Elementary School into low-income apartments.

Commission member Margy Davey said at Tuesday’s meeting that she was happy to see developers realizing the importance of affordable housing.

“I am delighted that we are able to bring 31 (low income) units to Oshkosh,” Davey said. “It is fantastic and much needed.”

The Commission approved 6-0 the creation of an additional fiscal financing district to help finance the project.

Smith School Lofts is a proposed 31-room apartment complex located in the former Smith Elementary School, 1745 Oregon Street. The plans call for a mix of one- to three-bedroom apartments, 44 one-vehicle garage spaces and 28 off-street parking spaces.

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The proposed TIF district includes approximately 2.66 acres at the northeast corner of Oregon Street and West 18th Avenue, which the developers say are in need of rehabilitation and conservation.

Local developer Tim Hess of Invista Analytics said the rent would be based on 30% of a household’s income. The maximum allowable income range is 60% of the community’s median income. In 2019, the median household income in Oshkosh was $ 50,892 in 2019, according to the US Census Bureau.

Commission member Justin Mitchell, who also coordinates affordable housing programs for the Oshkosh / Winnebago County Housing Authority, said the project would fill a “major gap” in the community.

This rendering shows a proposal for a 31-unit low-entry apartment complex considered to be Smith School Lofts at the former Smith Elementary School, 1745 Oregon St., in Oshkosh.  The developer is asking the city for additional tax funding to help finance the project.

“This is a paraprofessional working in the school district, someone who processes your checks in the bank,” Mitchell said. “These are service jobs that add value to the community, and they also need an affordable place to live.”

Hess, who also sits on a committee studying the housing situation in Oshkosh, said he understands the need for affordable housing, but the high costs often make it difficult for developers. This is where a TIF district comes in.

“This is what it takes to make this kind of housing work in Oshkosh,” he said.

He cited the city’s recent approval to turn Cabrini Primary School into senior apartments, another project funded by a TIF district.

The additional tax funding allows the city to use the increase in property taxes generated by development in the neighborhood to help subsidize the cost of the project.

In this case, developers are asking for 90% of that increase over 27 years in order to generate the estimated $ 1.65 million needed to pay for the city’s project costs, including development incentives and administrative costs. The plan estimates to generate approximately $ 2 million in value from new land and improvements.

The total investment in the project is approximately $ 7.75 million, including historic preservation credits and funds from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority.

TIF districts must be approved by the City Planning Commission, the entire City Council (scheduled for October 12) and the Joint Review Board, which includes representatives from the City, County of Winnebago, Oshkosh Region School District and Fox Valley Technical College.

Once the three entities approve the creation of the district, the city and the developers will negotiate an agreement that sets out the terms of payment, said Mark Lyons, head of city planning services.

If approved, the developers plan to complete the project in 2022.

Contact Katy Macek at [email protected] or 920-426-6658. Follow her on Twitter @KatherineMacek.

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