Nearly 50 area residents attended an information meeting on Wednesday, October 5, hosted by the Northpointe Development Corporation regarding their proposed Main Street Apartment Development Plan for properties on Broadway and Main Streets ( the former county highway store) in the town of Viroqua. Fifteen people attended the meeting virtually via Zoom.

Jake Victor, vice president of development for Northpointe Development Corporation, led the meeting, which was held at the Viroqua Middle/High School Library.

“We are here to listen to you and engage with you,” Victor said. “We want to make this the best development for the community.”

Victor said Northpointe, which has offices in Wisconsin, Illinois and Colorado, has done many affordable housing projects throughout Wisconsin, and all of them are unique in their own way. He said that most projects have 45 to 100+ units.

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Victor said Northpointe views all of its projects as a partnership with local municipalities and is “especially mindful of state and federal resources and being part of the affordable housing conversation throughout Wisconsin.”

He said Northpointe “understood that the city had long been left behind, reached out to discuss community needs and understand where new housing would make the most sense.” Victor said he learned about the grant opportunity, presented it to Viroqua, applied and obtained American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, and resubmitted his offer to Vernon County and secured control of the site.

Victor showed the concept plan for the site. The site plan includes a 45-unit, three-story building on an underground parking lot with 2,658 square feet of retail space facing Main Street with drive-thru on the first floor; a three-story, 24-unit building with a 6,000 square foot child care center on the first floor and 4,000 square foot outdoor child care space; and a rain garden. The proposed number of parking spaces includes 15 surface retail spaces, 15 surface child care spaces, 62 surface apartment spaces, 45 underground parking spaces and 105 proposed apartment parking spaces, with 1, 5 places per unit.

Victor showed interior renderings of apartments and a community hall that would be located on the first floor of the 45-unit building. He said the units had a modern feel and look and were built to encourage residents to get out of their units and interact with each other.

Building amenities, Victor said, would include on-site professional third-party management, priority to local workers/contractors, priority to Viroqua and Vernon County residents, a large family-friendly play area, green spaces, underground parking, walking paths around the property, free internet for all households, stainless steel appliances and quartz countertops, and washer, dryer, dishwasher included.

Victor said Northpointe is still working on a traffic study, which will be incorporated into the plan. He said they were also working on an income study and doing market research to determine rents. Construction is expected to begin in April 2024, with pre-letting beginning in April 2025 and construction ending in June 2025. Victor said more community engagement will take place throughout the process.

After the PowerPoint presentation, Victor answered a few questions before those present broke into small groups to discuss the concept plan and share their main concerns with the larger group.

An audience member asked if a traffic light would be set up at the corner of West Broadway and North Main streets. Viroqua City Administrator Nate Torres said that as the Main Street Improvement Plan currently stands, the Wisconsin Department of Transportation has not scheduled a traffic light there. He said improvements will be made to increase pedestrian and vehicle safety. Torres added that the DOT controls the area as a connection point.

Another person asked about the accessibility of the apartments. Victor said 20% of the units would be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant. He said they would make sure to incorporate a stop for the SMRT bus.

Some of the concerns shared with the group included the presence of an outlet in front of a window in each unit for a Christmas tree, the fact that the apartment buildings match the vibe of Viroqua, the lack of nighttime hours for retail space, presence of bright lights in parking lots, traffic issues, flat roofs, height of thermostats in each unit, noise control between units and parking spaces along the Main street being an eyesore.

The group’s suggestions included creating garden space for possible raised beds, creating a screen of vegetation along the Main Street parking bays and the daycare playground , the fact that one building looks different from the other, the proposed division of retail space in order to have more retail space. , including studios in the plan and adding a fourth floor to each building.

An audience member asked if there would be an opportunity for residents to purchase their units. Victor said this project was for rental housing only. He said home ownership is a top priority and having affordable rental housing is one step in making that possible.

Another person asked if there would be a place for zero income people. Victor said the units are for people with low to middle incomes.

One of the concerns expressed was who is paying for the demolition of the old county freeway building and cleanup. Victor said Northpointe would secure funding to cover those costs. Northpointe would also be responsible for cleaning up any contaminants. It has been pointed out that Northpointe is the owner of the property, which was purchased from Vernon County.

An audience member said a local architect had a design for the property and the public needed to hear about it. Torres said the architect, Gregory Splinter, made a presentation to city council at its Sept. 27 meeting. The audience member said she was unaware of this, and Torres replied that the agenda was posted on the town’s Facebook and on the town’s website. . “I think we honored Gregory’s opportunity to talk about his plan.”

Former Vernon County Board Supervisor Lavon “Spanky” Felton said he had seen Splinter’s plan for the property and that it was “excellent,” as was Northpointe’s. He said the county put the property up for competition and the only bid came from Northpointe; the initial offer was rejected, and Northpointe came back with a second offer, which was accepted by the County Board of Supervisors.

County Council Supervisor Mary Henry reiterated that only one bid had been submitted for the property. She said the county posted and reposted it and thought it would get more offers. “It has been in the works for several years; we knew contamination would be a problem.

Henry said she is excited about the project because it will meet the needs of the community. “The county has sold it (the property) and Northpointe will take care of the contaminated part of the agreement.”

Torres said it’s important to understand that the city has a say in the project. “This is a public/private partnership.” He added that if it weren’t for Northpointe, the city wouldn’t have the $6 million affordable housing grant. “They have control of the land and they (wrote) the concession.”

More information on the development plan is available at https://viroqua-wisconsin.com/main-street-apartments-development-project. Comments are welcome and a link to a survey can be found on the city’s website.

Angela Cina can be reached at [email protected]