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TOWER— The years-long quest by city officials here to bring development to the downtown harbor is taking another turn. The Tower Economic Development Authority voted last Thursday to issue a …
TOWER— The years-long quest by city officials here to bring development to the downtown harbor is taking another turn. The Tower Economic Development Authority voted last Thursday to issue a new request for proposals, or RFP, seeking parties interested in bringing a mix of residential and commercial development to approximately three acres adjacent to the harbor.
The latest RFP comes as the pieces appear to finally be in place to actually allow a developer to move forward at the site. A previous RFP, issued more than a decade ago, found no takers for the project, in part due to the lack of sufficient infrastructure at the harbor. In late 2015, after excavation of the harbor and other improvements, the city issued an RFP seeking the construction of town homes, a solicitation that eventually led to a development agreement with Tower Harbor Shores.
The plan for the construction of 20 town homes ran into extensive delays, however, after it became clear that the city lacked clear title to some of the property in question. It took more than three years to unwind that knot and, in the meantime, the COVID pandemic sparked a run of inflation that put the construction cost of the planned town homes out of reach. Meanwhile, the city transferred its interest and ownership of the project to TEDA, which has been working for the past two years to advance the town home project under a revised development agreement signed in late November 2021.
Tower Harbor Shores announced last August that it would be unable to proceed with the town homes due to the high construction costs. At the TEDA meeting last week, the TEDA board gave its approval to a cancellation agreement with Tower Harbor Shores, which cleared the way to seek a new developer.
Tower Harbor Shores is still free to submit a proposal for a revised project and is currently expected to do so.
The RFP is giving prospective developers until March 31 to submit proposals. The RFP sets a number of goals, including:
• Establishing new opportunities for both permanent and/or short-term residential housing as well as space for a variety of commercial ventures, with a particular interest in new dining opportunities.
• Creating an attractive and walkable development that entices travelers along Hwy. 169 to stop and explore Tower. A mix of private development and public green space is preferred.
• Making productive use of a highly visible and well-located parcel within the city that currently has no private development.
• Growing the city’s tax base.
A firm or group responding to the proposal will be expected to provide a resumé, references, examples of previous projects, and a development concept appropriate to the site and consistent with TEDA’s goals. A firm whose proposal is accepted will be expected to enter into a development agreement with TEDA that would further define the development and establish timelines and benchmarks for advancing the project.
In other business, the TEDA board:
• Approved revised guidelines for the city’s commercial redevelopment loan program, which is now under the auspices of TEDA. TEDA recently received a $50,000 grant from the IRRR, which it is matching 1-1 with a portion of the proceeds from the recent sale of lands on Mud Creek Road. TEDA now has approximately $111,000 available for low interest lending for commercial improvements in the city.
• Appointed Joe Morin as TEDA president, replacing Steve Peterson, whose term had expired.
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