McHenry Apartments

A $13 million project proposed for 1120 W. Main St. in Sun Prairie would include 5,000 square-feet of retail space on the ground level with a three-story, 74-unit apartment building. 

ULIAN KISSIOV

An eyesore along a prime Sun Prairie corridor is about to get a major upgrade.

A proposed $13 million redevelopment at 1120 W. Main St. has received approval from the City Council to receive $2.5 million in taxpayer assistance for the construction of a mixed-use project that includes 5,000 square feet of retail space and 74 apartments, half of which would be reserved for “workforce housing.”

The city money, through tax incremental financing, is being provided to developer Dan Schmidt of Madison-based Forward Management to offset costs for the removal of a large retail building that over the years has been home to a Pamida, Value Village and most recently, Heckel’s Marine, which closed in 2009. Since then, the blue and white building next to a St. Vincent de Paul store has been used only for storage, said Neil Stechschulte, Sun Prairie’s director of economic development.

“It’s probably the ugliest building on Main Street,” he said. “We’re looking forward to getting rid of it. It’s going to be a dramatic improvement for the aesthetics of the corridor.”

Final building and site plans for what is being called McHenry Apartments are under review by the city’s planning department; if approved, construction would start in spring and be completed by July 2018, according to the development agreement approved earlier this week.

Forward Management has been behind several other Sun Prairie apartment developments, including the 160-unit, four building Revere and 60-unit Conservancy Pointe, both in Smith’s Crossing just east of Highway 151 at Reiner Road. Forward also developed 25-unit and 52-unit buildings in the Providence development near Costco on the city’s southwest side.

The West Main Street project would not only bring new retail to the corridor but more lower-cost housing. The 2.5-acre project calls for 79 underground parking spaces and 37 apartments to be rented to individuals or families at 60 percent of the median household income for Dane County, which is about $54,000, according to U.S. Census data.

Overall, the three-story building would contain 37 one-bedroom apartments, 31 two-bedroom and six three-bedroom units.

“I am very excited to see a project of this caliber moving forward on Main Street,” Mayor Paul Esser said in a statement. “I think this project has tremendous potential to jump-start additional private investment in this area, and is hopefully just the first of many good things to come for Main Street.”

Sun Prairie is one of the fastest-growing communities in the state and has seen rapid development along the Highway 151 corridor with both housing and commercial developments on its south side, such as the Shoppes at Prairie Lakes.

Voters in the Sun Prairie School District last month approved an $89.5 million referendum to build two elementary schools and buy land; the district also is studying a plan that could lead to a second high school.

The affordable housing mixed with retail included in McHenry Apartments could be a model for other developments along the Main Street corridor and throughout the community, said Al Guyant, City Council president.

“Out of the diversity of projects that this council has supported in the past couple of years, this project has the potential to have one of the biggest impacts on our community,” Guyant said. “The workforce housing component of the project will create opportunities for those who work here in Sun Prairie but might not be able to otherwise find affordable housing here, including those employed in jobs like first-year teachers, rookie police officers or new retail store managers.”

“It’s probably the ugliest building on Main Street. We’re looking forward to getting rid of it. It’s going to be a dramatic improvement for the aesthetics of the corridor.” Neil Stechschulte,
director of economic development for Sun Prairie,
on the building that would be razed for McHenry Apartments
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Barry Adams covers regional and business news for the Wisconsin State Journal.