Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Village looks at developing Headquarters

by Rob Ireland

January 20, 2011

Fontana — For many years the building on the corner of Fontana Boulevard and Highway 67 was a place where people had their hair cut and styled.

In September 2007, Headquarters, 138 Fontana Blvd., closed its doors. About a year later, the village purchased the building and the adjacent vacant lot for $350,000 with plans to redevelop it in the future.

Now the village is working with Brian Pollard, the president of Fairwyn Development Corporation, to develop the site and return it to the tax roll.

Pollard, who resides in Lake Geneva, said his conceptual plan is to build retail spaces and offices on the first floor and condominiums on the second. However, those plans aren’t set in stone.

“It is a conceptual idea. We want to see what the market is open to,” he said.

This isn’t the first time Pollard has partnered with the village to develop vacant land in Fontana.

Pollard teamed up with the village to develop Mill Street into 14 condominiums, office space and what is now two restaurants.

Village Administrator Kelly Hayden said the board purchased the area that is now the Hildebrand Conservancy and Mill Street when it was vacant land.

“The village kept all the conservancy area and sold off the perceived developable site on Mill Street,” she said.

As Pollard sold units with the development, he paid the village for the land.

“We had a really good working relationship,” Pollard said. “It was very successful.”

According to Pollard’s proposal on the Fontana Boulevard project, he plans to demolish the existing building and construct a two-story or 2-1/2-story building on the site.

“The building will closely border Fontana Boulevard, with parking mostly concealed behind the building, in order to encourage pedestrian traffic and beautify the streetscape,” the development proposal states.

The new building’s architectural style will be a “contemporary lake cottage.”

“Approximately 20 to 25 percent of the property will be professionally landscaped green space, including the borders of sidewalks, parking areas and access lanes,” the proposal states.

Pollard said the success of the Mill Street project made him interested in developing the site on Fontana Boulevard.

However, he conceded with the tough economy his plans will change.

“It won’t be as aggressive,” he said. “(With the Mill Street project) we started building the units before we had them sold.”

With the new project, Pollard will have an 18-month option to purchase the land on Fontana Boulevard.

“Developer estimates that the total cost of the construction will be between $1.5 to $2 million depending on the final size of the building, architectural fees and construction complexity,” according to Pollard’s proposal. “The property is currently generating zero property tax revenue, so the next result of this project would be a tax increment of $1.5 to 2 million.”

Hayden said the village sought proposals to develop the property in October or November and Pollard was the only one to respond.

The village also is looking to develop a portion of Duck Pond Recreation Center. Hayden said there is a March 15 deadline for a request for proposal on the Duck Pond project.

Pollard said he isn’t pursuing developing that project at this time, but called it an “intriguing” site.

“Right know (the Headquarter site) is the one we are concentrating on,” Pollard said.

TIF troubles

In September, a sudden change in how the Department of Revenue values tax increment districts left village officials baffled and dropped the value of Fontana’s district by $26 million overnight.

And, depending on real estate growth, it also places the TIF district in debt until 2020. However, the TID should close with a positive balance.

Hayden said the village would have needed to look at creating increment for the TID regardless of the DOR’s letter.

“The role of the CDA is execute projects and generate increment,” Hayden said. “We have tackled most of the projects.”

If the development at the old Headquarter site is successful, it could spark more changes in the area.

“Anytime you see economic stimulus it has the potential to have a trickle effect,” Hayden said.

It is no secret property owners in that area have looked at selling or redeveloping their land.

Earlier this year, the village offered $525,000 for Fontana Outdoor Sports building and the old golf course, which is located at 543 Valley View Drive and 531 Mill St. However, an appraisal came back below that price and purchase plans were scrapped.

In 2008, the village denied plans to raze Novak’s Restaurant, 158 Fontana Blvd., and build four residential units in its place.