A planned downtown wine bar could be up and running this summer after receiving a tax-increment finance agreement from the Janesville City Council on Monday.
The council approved the incentive package unanimously, with several members applauding developer Greg Hughes for investing in the downtown.
Council members said the investment is substantial: a $2.5 million revitalization project that will transform an existing building at 11 N. Main St., currently the home of Legends Tavern, and redevelop an adjacent lot at 13 N. Main St. left vacant after a building there was razed last year.
The TIF agreement includes these incentives:
- $258,134 in pay-as-you-go TIF assistance paid over 15 years beginning in 2022. Payouts will be worth 90% of increment produced by the project each year.
- The city will assume ownership of the 13 N. Main St. lot and lease it to Hughes for $1 per year.
- The downtown TIF district will absorb the $222,000 cost of the 2020 demolition, which has not yet been paid by the property owner and would have been issued as a special assessment if not paid.
The agreement uses a pay-as-you-go method, meaning the developers will receive incentives gradually. The city will have no upfront costs and will not need to assume new debt, said Gale Price, economic development director.
Incentives paid over time come from increased property tax value created by the project, funds the city does not currently depend on to operate.
The city’s ownership of 13 N. Main St. and absorption of the demolition costs is essential for keeping the project on its intended timeline, Price said.
Adding the $222,000 in demolition costs would have made the already costly project not feasible, he said.
The project also will be supported by $696,000 in historic tax credit proceeds, according to a city memo.
The plans include the creation of Genisa, a wine bar at the current Legends Tavern at 11 N. Main St. The second floor will be remodeled for gathering space and overflow bar seating. The third floor will house space for short-term rentals, according to the memo.
The 13 N. Main St. lot will be transformed into outdoor patio seating for the wine bar, which Hughes said will be especially important as the community emerges from the pandemic.
Council member Jim Farrell asked whether Hughes thought the wine bar could survive on the tail end of the pandemic, which has shuttered bars and restaurants nationwide.
Hughes replied that the pandemic catalyzed his idea and gave him more time than he typically would have to form a plan.
He said he hopes much of the community will be vaccinated for COVID-19 by the summer opening. More outdoor space hopefully will boost the confidence of those who still might be hesitant to eat and drink in public, he said.
Farrell also raised the issue of parking, acknowledging that many residents believe the downtown lacks adequate parking. A multistory parking garage is steps away from the property across Main Street.
Parking should not be a problem, Hughes said. He noted that he hopes to inspire the use of Uber and other ride-sharing options in Janesville.