Three Wisconsin development firms have been chosen as potential master developers for Stoughton’s riverfront redevelopment site.

The city’s Redevelopment Authority will now attempt to establish relationships with each and determine their vision for the 11-acre group of former industrial properties between Fourth and Eighth streets.

That will start with a proposer’s meeting in late June, and the RDA hopes to choose a master developer this fall. The master developer would be responsible for the whole site and could contract with other developers to focus on specific portions, such as affordable housing or historical restoration.

The last time the RDA attempted to develop the site, in 2017, only Tanesay Development submitted a proposal to act as a master developer, while two others expressed interest in smaller projects on the site. Tanesay withdrew its bid to develop the site five months after it was chosen, citing discord between the RDA and Common Council.

Six firms returned this year’s request for interested developers, which was due April 15, and three said they would be willing to serve as master developers: General Capital and Bear Development, both from the Milwaukee area, and Madison-based Curt Vaughn Brink, LLC.

The RDA voted unanimously to make those three firms the shortlist for master developer and inform the other three responding firms they are out of the running. Those other three – Madison-based Horizon Develop Build Manage, Oregon-based Gorman and Company and Rice Lake-based Impact Seven all indicated they would be interested in developing portions of the site. Gorman and Company had also made that proposal in 2017.

If the RDA selects a master developer, that firm would decide whether and how to dole out portions of the development. The RDA’s oversight of that master developer would be established in a development agreement.

RDA members were split on how quickly to move forward with the project. Some wanted to ask the firms to start working on a proposal immediately, while others expressed the importance of establishing relationships with the developers to make sure the groups were on the same page so the developers didn’t invest staff time in preparing a design that wouldn’t work for Stoughton.

When Tanesay withdrew, it said the RDA had moved forward too quickly in asking for proposals before it was on the same page with the council.

RDA member Carl Chenoweth said he wanted to accelerate the timeline and start the firms working on proposals immediately, while member and Ald. Regina Hirsch (Dist. 3) and chair Roger Springman expressed the importance face-to-face meetings with the developers. Springman said the RDA at the time wanted specific proposals too early in the process.

“I got there late in the process (with the former master developer), and I could tell right away it wasn’t going to go well,” Springman said. “I don’t want to put us in the same spot for building relationships with these teams early on.”

Mayor Tim Swadley said this group has already communicated more with these three firms than the RDA had with Tanesay in 2017. Springman and RDA consultant Gary Becker have interviewed each of the six firms over the phone to confirm details about their responses.

With unanimous consensus that the three firms were the short list to become master developer, Chenoweth said he didn’t want to wait another 60 days to get the ball rolling.

“Let them start putting pencil to paper,” he said. “I’m not looking for detailed architectural plans. … I would like to see a vision for the entire site … (and) everything addressed that we had in the RFEI (request for expression of interest).”

The RFEI timeline lists May and June as “prospective developer engagement” and Oct. 1 as the date to send out requests for proposals. An RFP requires more of an investment from the respondents in the form of engineering and architectural work.

The RDA decided on a compromise, to start establishing relationships with the developers at a proposer’s meeting tentatively scheduled for June 26. The firms would be invited in individually to have a conversation with the RDA about goals for the site and to share their vision for development.

Contact Alexander Cramer at alexander.cramer@wcinet.com.