As local newspapers shrink and eventually die under the onslaught of the internet and internet advertising venues, their often grand and centrally located headquarter offices outlive their usefulness. This is exactly what has happened with the offices of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and they are moving from the beautiful art deco building they owned to a rental space elsewhere downtown.

Fortunately their old building is in the heart of the area coming alive again in the wake of the Milwaukee Bucks new home, the Fiserv Forum…and their old digs immediately drew an investor with grand plans and apparently deep pockets and good credit.

City financing to help convert the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s longtime home into Milwaukee Area Technical College student housing and other new uses has received a preliminary approval.

The $1 million financing plan for the $54.3 million Journal Square development was unanimously endorsed Tuesday by the Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee. 

It would provide annual payments from Journal Square’s property taxes to development firm J. Jeffers & Co. over 10 years. The full council is to review the proposal at its July 28 meeting.

Jeffers & Co., which owns the buildings, in November unveiled conceptual plans for Journal Square.

The firm’s financing for Journal Square includes $29.9 million in commercial loans, $12.9 million in state and federal historic preservation tax credits, $8.4 million of equity cash and a $2.1 million deferred developer’s fee, according to a Department of City Development report.

I don’t have an issue with the city providing investment funds for key developments in areas that are starving for development. But this one doesn’t fit that profile. It is in the middle of a district that has started to bloom since the opening of the Fiserv Forum. There is plenty of demand here.

And I don’t mind if the city provides seed money or that last nth degree needed to get something moving that is of vital interest to the city and its residents.

But this is just frosting on the cake for a very successful developer with tons of experience on a development that looks like a no brainer. And it’s a $54.3 million dollar development. They couldn’t get another $1 million in the financial market? Or from prospective tenants for the commercial portions? Or out of their pockets? And I find it hard to believe that this wouldn’t happen without the city’s $1 million…I mean really.

The city could use that $1 million in a lot of other projects in and around the city that might be far more fruitful. Like increased lead abatement or housing rehabilitation or development at Century City or any of a half dozen other things in zip code 53206 where $1 million might be the difference between go and no go.

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