Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Council approves three riverfront apartment buildings

JLA Architects
The developers are required to incorporate a high percentage of Class I building materials in the structures.

By Miles Maguire

Three five-story apartment buildings overlooking the Fox River received the go-ahead from the Common Council Tuesday.

The structures will take up approximately half of the Morgan District site, which extends along the river from the old Boat Works property to the west across Oregon Street to the Dockside Tavern.

The vacant parcel has been a riverfront eyesore for the last several years as the developers have cycled through several different plans, including one that called for a grocery store and another that envisioned a corporate headquarters building.

In the first phase of construction the developers will erect a clubhouse, a pool and three apartment buildings with 54 units apiece. The individual apartments will range from 400-square-foot studios to upscale two-bedrooms that incorporate dens.

The design of the buildings has been described as “modern” and more typical of new construction in places like Madison and Milwaukee. Because the site is on the riverfront, the developers must incorporate greater percentages of “Class I” materials, such as brick and glass, than are used elsewhere.

“To be certain, this is a vast improvement over … current conditions on the site and should serve as a catalyst for activity on the south side of the Fox River,” the developers said in their proposal to the city.

No specific date has been announced for groundbreaking, but this phase of the project is expected to be completed over the next three years.

Several council members expressed their enthusiasm for the project moving forward. 

“Very nice, very exciting,” said Deputy Mayor Lori Palmeri.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Federal judge orders UWO's chancellor to answer questions about new foundation

By Miles Maguire

A federal judge has ordered UW Oshkosh Chancellor Andrew Leavitt and an aide to submit to questioning by attorneys for the school’s long-established foundation, who say the two university officials have been working to interfere with pledges that were made to pay for the Alumni Welcome and Conference Center.

In an order dated Oct.11, Chief Bankruptcy Judge Susan V. Kelley said Leavitt and Robert Roberts, interim executive director of advancement, must appear at the offices of the foundation’s lawyers and supply records related to the university’s newly formed fundraising arm, the Titan Alumni Foundation.

But state lawyers have moved to block the exam, arguing that the judge’s order is too broad and would interfere with the university’s efforts to raise money through its new foundation.

The standoff between the two foundations comes at a time of increased financial distress for the university. State records show that UW Oshkosh lost $7.1 million in the last fiscal year, after losing $10.3 million in the prior 12 months. The school has announced a plan for “right-sizing” that will mean job losses as well as increased workloads for many remaining staffers.

Meanwhile the UW Oshkosh Foundation is sitting on $22.5 million in assets but is locked in a legal battle with the UW System. With the permission of the bankruptcy court, the foundation has been processing significant sums in the form of scholarships, almost $800,000 in September alone, according to a foundation board member.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Federal judge seeks to speed UWO bankruptcy resolution by pushing case to appeals court

Photo by Miles Maguire

Interest charges on the Alumni Welcome and Conference Center are accruing at about $565 a day.

By Miles Maguire
In a move that could speed the resolution of the UW Oshkosh Foundation bankruptcy case, a federal judge has sent the matter on to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals despite objections from state lawyers who want to continue the litigation in Wisconsin.

ActIng on her own authority and not at the request of either the foundation or the UW System, Chief Bankruptcy Judge Susan V. Kelley certified the case for an appeals decision in an order dated Oct. 5.

“The nature of the foundation as a charitable, educational and scientific organization established to support university programs dictates that this Chapter 11 case should be resolved as expeditiously as possible,” Kelley wrote. She noted how the university has needed court approval for the foundation to fund relatively mundane matters, such as a playoff trip by the Titan football team.

The tensions between the foundation and the university system have risen as the legal standoff continues. In a filing Oct. 12, the foundation accused university officials of interfering with pledges from donors and of spreading misinformation about the foundation’s future.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Oshkosh adds Saturday hours to early voting period

By Miles Maguire

At the request of Council Member Jake Krause, the city of Oshkosh has added Saturday hours for early voters in this year’s elections.

City Hall will be open Saturday, Oct. 27, from 9 a.m. to noon for early voting.

Krause said that other “progressive” communities like Madison and Milwaukee had expanded voting times to include Saturday hours and he thought Oshkosh should do the same.

Oshkosh citizens who wish to take advantage of early voting can request an absentee ballot by mail or stop by the city clerk’s office during designated hours. The Wisconsin Elections Commission explains the process here.

To beat the rush on Election Day, Nov. 6, Oshkosh voters can cast absentee ballots at City Hall starting Oct. 15. Staff in the city clerk’s office, on the first floor, will issue and accept ballots from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays through Nov. 1

The office will be open an extra 30 minutes on Friday, Nov. 2.

The Oshkosh city clerk’s election page can be found here.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Oshkosh comes up dry after advertising for proposals to redevelop Sawdust District property

City of Oshkosh Redevelopment Authority
The city was seeking, and expects to seek again, proposals for the parcel marked in yellow on this map.

By Miles Maguire

After contacting 70 groups about how to develop a 2.5 acre parcel in the Sawdust District, the city came up dry in a “request for proposals” process that ended Oct. 2.

“We did not receive any proposals,” said Kelly Nieforth, the city’s economic development manager. City staff met with at least six developers, but in the end no one came forward with a specific plan. 

The city had been hoping for a “creative and aesthetically pleasing commercial, office or mixed-use project” for the site at 43 E. 7th Ave. The property sits south of Pioneer Drive with a view of the Fox River. 

Projects like Eagle Flats in Appleton, One Menasha Center and the Plexus building in Neenah were what city officials had in mind. 

“There are likely multiple reasons for the lack of response,” said City Manager Mark Rohloff. “The uncertainty of the Pioneer Inn property and the CN Railroad right-of-way along Pioneer Drive were certainly contributing factors.”

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Missed deadline jeopardizes state's position in case against UW Oshkosh Foundation

Photo by Miles Maguire
This biodigester is one of two major assets that remain in the UW Oshkosh Foundation bankruptcy case. 
By Miles Maguire

The University of Wisconsin System missed a key filing date in its effort to fight a multimillion dollar judgment awarded to the UW Oshkosh Foundation.

“I think…, probably, we’re done at this point,” said Paul Swanson, an attorney for the foundation. “I think we’re entitled quite frankly to just, you know, execute, garnish, do whatever we have to do to collect the judgment.”

Swanson made his remarks at a Sept. 25 status conference before U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Susan V. Kelley, who ruled in August that the state owes the foundation $15 million for breach of contract.

The dispute is over several development projects the foundation pursued in the belief that UW Oshkosh would back it up if financial problems arose. When problems did arise, the university repudiated its agreement with the foundation, which led to a bankruptcy filing last year.

Kelley had expected that her ruling would have been taken to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. But the state decided it would be better to fight things out in district court.