City Council members voted 5-2 Tuesday night to approve a developer's agreement for Frisbie Properties to develop the 1.42-acre city-owned site north of the new City Hall, along Clark Street where the RFC-TV16 building is.
Local company owner Matt Frisbie presented a conceptual plan showing 21,000-square feet of mixed-use commercial development.
He plans to renovate the cable station and build a three-story addition onto its north and east sides. Into the building, he'll move his architectural firm, Frisbie Architects, 215 N. Second St.
The agreement says construction must begin before September and finish by the end of 2010. It also says some space will be available for lease. Frisbie said the plan includes extensive landscaping, parking to the north and south and possibly a pedestrian path extending to Division Street with some park-like gathering spots.
He said his company completes a transaction May 1 to buy the small apartment building adjacent to the site and near the Kinnickinnic River. Frisbie plans to clean, landscape, repave and maintain it indefinitely.
He said "tenants will remain" and that demolition of the building definitely wasn't part of the phase-one development plans happening in the next two years.
The developer's agreement also gives the city two years to move or demolish the small building on the site known as the historic (railroad) freight house.
Frisbie said, "Our plan is to not tear down that building."
In 2008, the city created a tax increment finance district area next to City Hall.
Through the TIF, River Falls offered $180,000 in development incentives and ownership of the $425,000 site. In return, Frisbie will improve the property to a value of at least $3 million and pay annual taxes of at least $59,745 for 20 years.
Several council members wanted new City Administrator Scot Simpson, who starts May 1, to provide input before they voted. Mayor Don Richards said he shared some details with Simpson, who'd only questioned the 20-year length of return.
Council Member Tom Caflisch asked whether the city should have advertised the TIF and given other developers a chance to submit and present ideas.
Frisbie said his company expressed an interest in the site last year and has already invested quite a bit into soil borings, surveying and other preliminary work.
Council Member Mike Woolsey, who along with Wayne Beebe served at the last meeting of his term Tuesday, said he hears from constituents that the city owns too much property and should find developers to do something with it.
"This is the opportunity," Woolsey said. "We might be waiting on the perfect development, but I'm afraid we're waiting on the perfect nothing."
Council Member David Cronk said, "I'm not quite sure why we want to delay it," adding that this deal was not much different than the many the City Council had approved in Whitetail Ridge Corporate Park.
The council OK'd the deal with Caflisch and Bob Ebert voting no.