The downtown location of the former Shopko. (Metro Wire photo)

Shopko demolition to pave way for ‘superblock’ in downtown Point

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By Brandi Makuski

Stevens Point — The city has given a tentative thumbs up to awarding the Shopko demolition project to a company based in DePere.

The Stevens Point Finance Committee on Monday approved a $238,072 bid from BEST Enterprises LLC to demolish the 90,000-square-foot structure, which sits on 2.4 acres of land in downtown Stevens Point. It was one of 10 bids that went as high as $694,900. A final stamp of approval could come from the Common Council on May 20.

Community Development Director Ryan Kernosky said demolition could begin after the downtown July 4th parade, should take 6-8 weeks, and includes asbestos abatement.

Razing the structure located at 1200 Main St. is the first phase of the redevelopment efforts planned by the city, and allows for the extension of Strongs Ave. to Union St.

The city purchased the property from Division Main LLC, a developer with a Plover PO Box that previously purchased the lot from Shopko, for $1.4 million, last October.

The superblock

The concept, created by Vandewalle & Associates, includes five multi-story buildings on a superblock that is more welcoming for visitors to the downtown. A three-story facility could house a new transit center with space for six to eight city buses, public restrooms, and a bus shelter.

(Courtesy city of Stevens Point)

Four additional buildings will mimic the nearby North Side Yard complex, consisting of two to four floors of residential and commercial space with underground parking, with room for up to 165 apartments and more than 21,000 square feet of retail space.

A superblock in urban planning refers to a large city block, often encompassing multiple traditional blocks, with limited through traffic. The internal streets prioritize pedestrians and cyclists, and the area may include green spaces or shared-use zones.

The plan essentially breaks up one large lot into small sections and includes a lot of green space. It also assumes a future convention center in the former location of Great Lakes Student Loan Services, 1101 Centerpoint Dr., which has been largely empty as employees began working from home at the onset of COVID-19.

Development aimed at boosting downtown

The Shopko lot is located inside TIF 10, created in 2019, so some redevelopment will be funded upfront through tax increment.

A Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district is a tool municipalities use to stimulate economic development in specific areas. It works by freezing the assessed property value within the district at a base level. As new development occurs and property values rise, the increased tax revenue, known as the tax increment, is used to fund public improvements within the district, such as infrastructure, environmental cleanup, or incentives for businesses.

City Treasurer Corey Ladick said a successful TIF can lead to job creation, increased property values, and overall economic growth in the designated area. Still, it can come under controversy for potentially diverting funds from other public services or favoring certain developers.

In other words, Kenosky said, TIF 10 will take on the financial burden, but that money should be paid back via the increment generated by the redevelopment spearheaded by private parties. He added that TIF 10 hasn’t generated much increment and was currently “in a precarious state.”

Ladick said the city will likely transfer funds into TIF 10 from TIF 5 — an area containing the Division St. corridor and surrounding areas.

“Right now, TIF 10 doesn’t have the money on hand to fund this,” Ladick said. “It’s the same thing we did with the acquisition of the Shopko building, as well; we transferred money from TIF 5, which is the northside TIF District, which is in a much better financial position than the downtown TIF is.”

Kernosky added that it “wasn’t uncommon” for younger TIFs, like TIF 10, to be short on cash for the first several years.

“You have to make big investments upfront, especially in redevelopment projects like this, and in the long term, that money will come back through the taxes generated.”

The location of Shopko closed in 2019 when the company filed for bankruptcy.