Stoughton’s Redevelopment Authority made several important strides with its riverfront project in the past year, including the elimination of two buildings and preliminary plans for part of the site.

Within the riverfront redevelopment area, which is between South Fourth and South Seventh streets and between East South Street and the Yahara River, there were demolitions of the final two physical obstacles to future development – the century-old blacksmith shop and the former public works garage. The RDA also agreed to a letter of intent with developer Curt Vaughn Brink LLC, and a master development agreement is in the works.

Brink’s redevelopment proposal features mostly residential buildings along with a few small businesses and a riverfront trail. In addition, the city’s parks and recreation department is also planning a whitewater park for the south side of the river.

With the recent reveal of Phase 1 development plans, the project is inching closer to a start date. That would take place on the western part of the site and would feature a trio of three-story buildings totaling more than 100 apartment units.

Brink agreed to deliver a project timetable to the RDA by June 12 for discussion at a future meeting.

Final demolitions

Stoughton entered 2019 with most of the riverfront area cleared for redevelopment, though three structures remained.

The blacksmith shop, at 501 E. South St., was the only part of the Highway Trailer complex left standing after the Common Council compromised to end its demolition moratorium in 2017. At the time, there were still efforts to preserve the building because of its perceived historic significance related to its origins with the Moline Plow Company and the city’s history building wagons and trailers dating to 1865.

Those fell apart after an October 2018 windstorm destroyed the shop’s northwest corner.

Demolition contractor Earth Construction LLC and the city’s Redevelopment Authority initially quarreled over who was responsible for the damage, but months of mediation sessions resolved the situation in July 2019, with the building’s demolition finally taking place in September 2019.

The opening of a new public works facility at 2439 Cty. Hwy. A in January 2019 allowed the city to clear yet another building from the redevelopment site, the former public works building at 515 S. Fourth St., and the building’s demolition took place in late November.

Stoughton’s old power house building, which is being considered for preservation, is the only structure left standing within the now vacant project area, nestled in the redevelopment’s southwest corner.

A new developer

The riverfront project now has developer Curt Brink to lead the undertaking, though he has not yet agreed to a master development agreement with the city.

The RDA initially selected Appleton-based Tanesay Development LLC in February 2018 to serve as master developer, but Tanesay withdrew from the project in July 2017 after noting that the council did not support the RDA’s project plan.

The developer selection process restarted in 2019 with six interested parties, but three were rejected and two pulled out, leaving Brink alone to showcase his project ideas to the RDA. Brink then submitted a letter of intent to the RDA outlining the general terms of his project plan using non-binding language.

The RDA was expecting a more comprehensive proposal but accepted the document in September when Brink’s attorney agreed to the terms of an addendum, which called for several concerns to be addressed in the master development agreement. Initially, Brink and the RDA entered a 60-day period for negotiating the master development agreement, but those discussions stalled.

In February, Brink then revealed an updated site plan for Phase 1 of the project. Because Phase 1 would take place on property owned by both the city and the RDA, discussions began in March to transfer all RDA-owned parcels to the city.

At a May 28 meeting, the RDA decided to prioritize the creation of the master development agreement, with Mayor Tim Swadley, the city attorney and Brink’s attorney set to begin working out the details.