RDA approves resolution to increase public art funding in Green Bay

Published: Aug. 20, 2019 at 4:03 PM CDT
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Green Bay’s Redevelopment Authority is hoping to expand the city's public art footprint with the help of future developers.

“It helps encourage economic development,” said Green Bay Alderman Brian Johnson. “You see that any time a neighborhood is going to transform, public art is often the first thing to move in, so we want to encourage more of that."

At the request of Johnson, the Redevelopment Authority has come up with a way to increase beautification efforts throughout the city of Green Bay. It’s called the "percent for art" resolution and was passed unanimously by the RDA.

“It takes any new development project in the city of Green Bay that is going to receive public assistance, it requires a 1 percent investment of the assessed value of the project into public art,” said Johnson.

For example, if a developer asks for city assistance via tax increment financing (TIF) and the end project’s assessment is $10 million, one percent of that total, or $100,000, would go toward public art.

"None of this is levy funded, meaning taxpayer dollars are not being used for this,” said Johnson. “It becomes the burden and responsibility of the developer."

Because it’s developer money, they would get to decide how to use that one percent.

“It allows the developer to install art on the property, allows the developers to put art in the structure itself or put it in an account where the RDA and Public Arts Commission could decide to fund a different project in the city,” said Kevin Vonck, Green Bay’s development director.

For perspective, if the RDA’s “Percent for Art” rule had been in place last year, almost $1 million would have gone to public art in the community.

“In 2018, all in we did about $90 million worth of development in terms of projected assessment, so that would lay out to $900,000 in terms of that account,” said Vonck.

In 2017, the city had about $60 million worth of agreements, so another $600,000 would have gone to public art.

“If you look at projects and how they continue to progress, we are hopeful this could put a substantial amount of money in that account to get some great art in the community,” said Vonck.

When asked if this newly allocated one-percent would affect other city priorities, Vonck said it wouldn’t.

“It’s not saying that money can’t be used for it. We are saying a small portion should be dedicated to public art,” said Vonck. “Those TIFs will continue to fund road improvements, storm water improvements and other things of that critical nature. We don’t see this negatively impacting those.”

The RDA’s resolution goes into effect immediately. However, projects already under construction or in negotiations with the city are exempt because they are grandfathered in.

“Green Bay will be the first city in state of Wisconsin that has adopted a policy like this,” said Johnson. “Madison has passed one, but will take effect in 2020.”

If a developer doesn’t agree with the new RDA rule, they do have a chance to appeal it.

“At the end of day we don’t want to see a project not happen because we made it cost-prohibitive, but we want to make sure when a developer comes in and receives public assistance, they are making appropriate investments in our community as well,” said Johnson.