Unfinished condos might face city action, foreclosure

Only three Parkway Square units have sold

Feb. 10, 2009

When they were constructed about three years ago off Interstate 794, Parkway Square condominiums were supposed to appeal to middle-aged people working downtown.

Now, an unfinished foundation along Howard Avenue next to a real estate sign advertising the development for sale serves as a reminder of a failed project.

For more than a year, development on the site has been at a standstill, and city officials are looking to take action against the owner.

At a Feb. 3 Common Council meeting, Building Inspector Craig Vretenar said the unfinished foundation is a safety hazard, stormwater management is incomplete and a terrace area has not been filled in with topsoil as originally planned.

Only foundation stands

Plans called for the construction of three six-unit buildings. One building was completed, another was finished on the outside and most of the inside was left incomplete. The foundation is all that exists of the third building.

Alderman Donald Brickner agreed that something needs to be done, especially with the structureless foundation because it is unsafe and an eyesore, he said.

Council President Debbie Fliss requested that Vretenar, City Engineer Melinda Dejewski and City Attorney Michele Ford meet to discuss what kind of action the council should take to address the issues.

No action was taken by the council, but the matter will likely be revisited later.

City blamed for failure

Gregory Jourdain, Parkway Square principal and project manager, blames city officials for the condos' failure.

"There's no help from the city," he said.

Parkway Square's "top-of-line condos" are selling for about $240,000, Jourdain said. Only three condos have been sold.

Despite being situated next to Interstate 794, under a flight path and on a street trafficked by semi trucks, Jourdain said he could have sold four additional units if the homeowner across the street from his development was not running "a junkyard," he said.

"Four more sales would make a big, big difference," he said.

Jourdain asked the city to do something about the neighbor's unkempt yard, but nothing was done, he said.

His firm has invested $3 million in the development, Jourdain said.

He said city officials required that he and his partners install a retention pond, sprinkler systems and other unnecessary items, driving up the price of the development.

"They made us spend money that we never had to spend," he said.

High cleanup costs

To prepare the land for development, Parkway Square had to spend between $200,000 and $300,000 to clean up the soil. Jourdain said he tried to get tax-incremental financing funds to offset costs, but was denied.

Tax-incremental financing, or TIF, 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.

City Administrator Ralph Voltner said Parkway Square condominiums are not within the city's TIF district, making them ineligible for funding.

The project is now tied up in litigation because the company has been unable to make payments to a bank. While the condos are not under foreclosure, "they will be very shortly," Jourdain said.

"I've put in a ton of money to keep this thing going," he said "The city can do anything they want to do, and I don't care anymore.

Chantel Balzell can be reached at (262) 446-6602.

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