Since this spring, the building at 25 E. Main St. in downtown Platteville has been easy to find.
It is not only the office of The Platteville Journal — though neither The Journal nor its parent company, Morris Newspapers Corporation of Wisconsin, own the building — it is also the building with the scaffolding in front of it since pieces of the building fell onto the sidewalk in front of it.
The building, owned by Silverwood Investment Co. LLC, was the subject of a lengthy discussion by the Platteville Common Council Oct. 14. A prospective buyer, Wall Properties, is seeking a $172,000 loan from the city’s revolving loan fund for renovations to the building.
The discussion — the proposal was not up for vote — was essentially a debate about the proper role of city government in economic development.
The city Downtown Redevelopment Authority board recommended the loan from Fidelity Bank, at a rate of 3 percent — 1.02 percent more than Fidelity’s bid, the lowest of six area banks — for seven years.
The loan would be the second to the prospective buyers. The RDA previously approved an $80,000 loan at 1 percent interest to finance the exterior work, but doesn’t have enough funds for lending more money, according to city documents.
Under the proposal, the city would borrow the funds and then lend them to the purchaser to finance extensive renovations to the interior, including expanding the second- and third-floor apartments and add an apartment in the basement.
“The RDA recognizes that this role is kind of a high-risk lender,” said city community planning and development director Joe Carroll.
Deterioration of the mortar on the front of the building allowed water to seep behind the masonry, which has rusted a steel beam that holds up part of the building façade, according to city documents.
“It’s no secret that this property has an extreme problem,” said District 3 Ald. Barb Daus. “It’s a blighted property in the middle of our downtown, and that’s what an RDA is about.”
Platteville Main Street executive director Jack Luedtke described it as a “very blighted building” next to a vacant building, the former Steve’s Pizza Palace at 15 E. Main St. Luedtke said the work would “increase the value of the building and increase the tax rolls.”
At least one alderman is opposed to a loan.
“If they want to borrow money, they should get a bank,” said at-large Ald. Mike Denn.
“I would worry about us being paid back.”
“I don’t think that’s possible” to get a loan from a bank for the building, said Luedtke, adding that a city or RDA loan would include the lowest possible interest rate. “There are not a lot of people looking to buy that property and reinvest in that property.”
“While a lot of our properties on Main Street appear” fine, said Daus, “I don’t think people realize how tough shape this property is until pieces started falling off it.”
District 4 Ald. Ken Kilian noted that the city would have a second mortgage on the property since the city loan is for the building work, not the building purchase.
Kilian later said that he favored the project, but he wanted to make sure the city was repaid.