Proposed Area of Better City Superior development | Explore Superior

How Land Will Be Acquired for Better City Superior


City and Private Perspectives of Land Acquisition

With the prospect of a large development being undertaken in the downtown area of Superior, some have expressed concerns about being forced out of their homes. The good news for those potentially affected by the proposed Better City Superior initiative is that Wisconsin does not allow eminent domain (the right of a government or its agent to expropriate private property for public use, with payment of compensation.)

According to Jason Serck, Superior Planning Director, there are an estimated 40 to 50 properties in the area being considered…largely residential, with some commercial. If properties are obtained by the City of Superior, purchases include relocation benefits for owners and tenants.

“I believe the new maximum for relocation per owner is around $33,000….that is on top of the purchase price of the property.  Commercial is treated differently, but there is a relocation cost there as well,” Serck said.

Bruce Thompson of National Bank of Commerce, head of BCS group, has suggested that properties could be acquired privately at market negotiated rates, not involving the City. He also believes that while property owners cannot be forced to sell their home or commercial sites, it would be in their best interest to sell since after the development gets underway their property values may suffer.

Ultimately, this would be a multi-generational investment in our downtown. Those that participate and cash out by relocating or cooperating in other ways will always be considered key players in the future of Superior and will be permanently recognized as community builders, according to Thompson. If work-arounds are necessary due to a reluctance to sell, there is a risk of limited marketability for the existing properties.

The Expo District will be a public/private organization with taxing power granted by referendum and state/city law. This organization will be responsible for putting the property together for the footprint of the development, and will will work with one or more developers to design and construct whatever buildings they decided to develop.

The Superior City Council will have oversight of the organization as well. According to Serck, there are a similar models in Milwaukee and Green Bay whose examples could be followed.

cShown below is the resolution that was approved by the City Council in August that set the language for the advisory referendum.  Under the last WHEREAS***, notice that the Council also set limits on the monetary mechanisms for funding…mainly borrowing/bonding.  This restriction, as it sits, would not allow the City to borrow or bond for dollars related to the project.

Serck explained that the City would participate, but through the “pay as you go” tax increment proess which relies on revenues from the completed project to more or less reimburse the developer over a 20 to 25 year span through payments.  

The City has State and local restrictions on borrowing capacity, so this has become their preferred manner of funding economic development projects. The most recent such development is the new Hampton Inn being constructed on Highway 2 across from Barker’s Island.  

From the City’s point of view, the borrowing limit set forth in the resolution would make it very difficult to complete up front purchases of property since no cash would be on hand.

One thought on “How Land Will Be Acquired for Better City Superior

  1. Brian Finstad

    Downtown Superior has two developmental tasks in front of it in terms of Land Use Planning:

    1. How to create a tourism district at the foot of the Blatnik Bridge to create a gateway for those coming across from Duluth and tying in “downtown” with the water, utilizing the Hughitt and Tower slips.


    2. How to tie downtown in with the station of the Northern Lights Express so as to create an impression that visitors are arriving at a truly great, dynamic, and exciting city.

    BCS could knock either one of these out of the park. However, if it is not leveraged to accomplish either of the two, especially considering the amount of money we are talking about, it will be an absolute travesty. Superior has such a long record of being held back by very poor land use planning decisions that I am almost cringing waiting for it to happen again.

    Everything East of Tower should just have its shading removed. That area does not accomplish either of downtown’s developmental challenges and pushes more “commercial” use into a residential area that will only serve to destabilize whatever residential uses remain as neighborhood “fragments.” That is a pathway that does not energize what we need to see energized and actually will lead to further disinvestment in surrounding properties.

    There is a huge challenge on the city’s plate right now because of a faux pas that occurred earlier this year. The developable land between downtown and the NLX Station should have been purchased and preserved for the type of development that is compatible with making a great impression for arrival in the city as well as well as bridge the gap between the NLX station stop and Tower Ave with uses and aesthetics complimentary to that. It was instead purchased by Kwik Trip for a fuel mixing plant. That location is no longer appropriate for the NLX arrival point to our city unless the impression we wish to give is that we are just Duluth’s industrial park. I am not sure what the right alternative is at this point, but I can pretty much guaranty you whatever it is, our Planning Department is not working on it.

    Superior really needs to get its act together around these land use planning issues at a time when there is so much critical and long lasting planning happening. We need to get it right this time. No more mistakes.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: