Several Menomonie landlords on Monday criticized a plan for a 171-bed student housing complex on 17th Avenue in Menomonie.
The city Plan Commission voted 5-1 on Feb. 25 to recommend a plan for The Heights to the city council, according to meeting minutes.
The Heights is proposed for 17th Avenue West and Broadway Street South, just southwest of the Don and Nona Williams Stadium.
A roughly 10-bedroom fraternity house sits on the 1½-acre lot. According to the general plan, Talon Development would replace it with a four-story building with 53 units and 171 beds, and buy an adjoining property to the northwest to use as a parking lot. The project cost is estimated at $10 million, said attorney Brian Nodolf, who represents Talon Development.
During a public hearing Monday, landlords said the student housing market can’t support a large new complex, and that UW-Stout online classes have reduced some of the need for student housing.
Mike Kessler of Glenwood City, who said he owns a Menomonie rental property, said he’s also concerned about market saturation.
“I would wonder what the real need is for more housing. What is the vacancy of current rentals right now, and why are they vacant?” Kessler asked.
Terrance Oppriecht, a property manager at American Edge Real Estate, wrote in an email to the city that there isn’t a demand for “such a large student rental development now, nor do I foresee the demand anytime in the near future.”
American Edge president Peter Wiese said the complex would likely have “a severe negative impact on the already fragile and over-supplied student housing market.”
Jay Williamson of Southside Property Management said he’s concerned about the increase in pedestrians and traffic the complex would bring.
“If we add another 171 beds, that’s another 171 students that are going to be crossing that intersection,” Williamson said. “Just because there’s flashing lights doesn’t mean they’re stopping and looking for cars.”
Landlords also criticized the city moving forward with creating a 16th tax-incremental district. The city council voted in February to begin the process of creating that TID, and Menomonie Mayor Randy Knaack said in February The Heights’ fate will likely depend on the creation of that TID.
“There’s no way we should subsidize student housing in any way, shape or form,” Williamson said.
Brian Shefchik of Shefchik Builders Inc. said he owns student rentals that will sit vacant next year, and said he has not asked the city for tax breaks for any property.
“If they’re going to build a property and they need tax breaks for student housing, and we have too many already in this town, I’m definitely against that type of construction,” Shefchik said.
Nodolf defended the project, saying the complex “is designed to meet the needs of Stout,” is “sorely needed” and would be “integrated housing with a state-of-the-art facility that isn’t currently in existence.”
The complex would be fully staffed, and would also appeal to graduate students, Nodolf said.
The council was set to vote on the proposed development Monday night.
The council was also slated to discuss the development in closed session Monday, along with discussing a possible purchase price for the Dunn County Government Center building at 800 Wilson Ave.
The Menomonie City Hall has been in the south wing of the third floor of the government center, which the city has leased from Dunn County since 1971. In July 2018 the county board voted to move county offices to the Community Services Building on the city’s east side, leaving behind the government building, which needs about $3.8 million in repairs. Also in July 2018, the city council signaled its intent to stay in the government center building, if economically feasible.