Helgesen News

JANESVILLE -- In an effort to boost the city's supply of available industrial space, Janesville council members Monday will consider partnering with a local developer on a project on the city's south side.

Developer Jeff Helgesen wants to construct two buildings on city-owned land on West Venture Drive.

He said Thursday he's certain he'll be able to find tenants for the buildings.

The first building would be a 120,000-square-foot facility at 202 W. Venture Drive.

Helgesen said it could be expanded up to 180,000 square feet.

The second would be a 225,000-square-foot building across the street at 401 W. Venture Drive.

Staff has recommended the council approve two tax increment financings deals that require a combined city investment of $2.4 million.

Both agreements mandate that Helgesen start construction and sign tenants within three years. If he doesn't, the TIF agreement would be voided.

The 120,000-square-foot building would sit on 24.7 acres and generate $4.3 million in taxable value each year. For that building, the council will consider an $844,608 incentive package that includes the land.

The larger building across the street would sit on 24.8 acres and generate about $8.1 million in taxable property each year. The city would provide an incentive package, including the land, of about $1.6 million.

Ryan Garcia, the city's economic development coordinator, said in a memo to council members that Janesville has nearly no vacant Class A industrial space.

“As the market continues to rebound, prospective companies are still finding it difficult to finance the construction of new facilities,” he wrote.

“With the development of these two facilities, the city will be well positioned to begin attracting companies to the area that are not looking to construct their own new facility.”

Earlier this year, Helgesen unveiled plans to invest more than $27 million in four buildings at the same site. He said at the time the project would add millions of dollars to the local tax roll and create hundreds of jobs.

Helgesen initially wanted to build twin 120,000-square-foot buildings on the north side of West Venture Drive. Across the street, he wanted to build the 225,000-square-foot building that's now before the council, as well as a 60,000-square-foot building that would be home to his company, Helgesen Development.

Talks on TIF incentives broke down over the summer when the two sides couldn't reach agreement on several issues, including the excavation costs to remove a significant layer of spongy clay from portions of the site.

Helgesen said Thursday he still would like to build the 60,000-square-foot building to house his company.

He said he's recently spoken with a couple of prospective tenants, one of whom is interested in about 130,000 square feet.

In the past year, Helgesen said he's talked with prospective tenants specializing in light assembly, distribution and robotics work.

“I have no doubt that I can fill the space within the three-year window allotted,” he said.

In his memo, Garcia agreed, saying the city is “confident that the projects will move forward well within the three-year grace period.”

By Jim Leute
jleute@gazettextra.com