WATERLOO — Incentives have been awarded to lure a high-rise housing and retail building at the downtown RiverLoop Amphitheater.
Waterloo City Council members voted unanimously Monday to approve donating the land and giving 20 years of 42 percent property tax rebates for the project to be developed by Grand Investments LLC.
Grand Investments, spearheaded by Brent Dahlstrom, is currently developing the Grand Crossing condominiums and retail project at the former Grand Hotel site at U.S. Highway 63 and Jefferson Street.
The new project near the RiverLoop Amphitheater and Waterloo Center for the Arts would have parking on the ground level and under the elevated RiverLoop plaza, retail and office space on the floor opening to the plaza itself and at least 40 housing units on the upper floors.
The project, conceived as part of the downtown master plan in 2000, must be finished by the end of 2019 and have a taxable value of $4.5 million.
Councilmen supported the project despite concerns about parking congestion, the level of tax rebates being provided and worries about spiking vacancy rates in existing rental properties.
“I really appreciate Dahlstrom doing this project,” said Councilman Tom Lind. “I know it’s been in the works for 15 years. It’s a great project.
“I just think we have to, as (resident) Steve Murphy told us one day, tap the brakes and just maybe not be so rich (with tax incentives) on future development projects,” he added.
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Community Planning and Development Director Noel Anderson said the incentives are identical to a package offered several years ago to Sherman Associates Inc., a Minneapolis-based developer, which eventually bowed out of the project.
He said the city only returns 42 percent of any new taxes generated by the project.
“What we’re giving back is actually something we’re not getting today,” Anderson said. “We reap the rewards of the remaining percentage.”
But resident Forest Dillavou, a frequent critic of the city’s tax-increment financing districts, said residential property taxpayers in Waterloo will realize no help from the new building.
“(The new taxes) do not go to the general fund; it does not go to support police and fire,” he said. “It only goes into the TIF to do more projects just like this project.”
Another resident, Jerry Greer, objected to the “landlocked” location of the building, suggesting it would be better suited on vacant city-owned parking lots at West Third and Commercial streets.
“I applaud all efforts that are trying to make the heart of Waterloo more viable,” Greer said. “This is one of those projects. However, I think the location is inappropriate.”
Anderson countered the city’s original design for the amphitheater left a spot for this building. The city is hoping the Grand Investments project will drive demand to build additional housing on the site Greer mentioned.