I’ve been asked on occasion, “Why am I a developer?”
It’s not for the money if that’s what you’re thinking. Most developers just love making a tangible difference in their communities, developing new buildings that are real, lasting, and have a positive impact on their home towns. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a new building rise as if magically from the ground to a substantial size and knowing that you were responsible for that in spite of overwhelming odds against it.
In fact, I think our redevelopment of Middleton Center is a good example of a typical developer’s goals in life. Some people focus on “changing the world” through protesting, getting elected to political office, or inventing some new internet feature. I prefer to stay local and tangible, where I can have a real and positive impact on our local community and the people here.
Back in 2010 I ran for the U.S. Senate with the intent of trying to have an impact on the nation as a whole, but I have to admit, during the campaign and since then watching Washington DC, I have come to realize (as many people also told me) that I can have a much greater impact here in Wisconsin.
What kind of impact? We’ll, not just developing buildings, but in creating jobs for hard working Wisconsin families, (tens of thousands of jobs in fact), and more importantly, in creating, as we say, places where people interact. The process of development creates a place, whether a residential community – single family or multi-family – or an office or retail community that real people use, either living there or working or shopping there. Example: When I first opened Holborn Village on the far east side, I was fascinated seeing young families standing outside in the morning waiting for the school bus to pick up their children. The route of the school bus would not pass through my community had I not developed it; I thought that was pretty cool. And how many people can say that?
To see people working in buildings that I built, in environments I created, is very satisfying, especially when you see others achieving their own dreams to create companies or have families at those properties.
There’s also some peripheral benefits. I developed the far east side when no one thought it possible, creating an entire industry so to speak. The interstate interchange with Highway 151 layout is of my design. Many different road networks, including the names, are my design, and the Interstate now holds signs with the name of my office park on them. That’s pretty cool too. Drivers actually exit onto an exit ramp I got approved and built.
Likewise, I developed the tallest buildings on the west side of the City of Madison (City Center West) and the first mixed-use land development (High Crossing Environ) and the first mixed-use buildings in greater Madison. I master planned Greenway Center as a student intern and developed many of its buildings along with creating its more urban feel. All these buildings are now landmarks that will stand the test of time – existing probably centuries after I will be gone.
I also developed the Carousel building at the Children’s Zoo and the Boy Scouts Council headquarters building.
I find it especially gratifying when I am able to inform a belligerent neighbor in a neighborhood meeting who says I should “pay more” that up until 2016 I was the single largest taxpayer in the City of Middleton, paying an estimated total of $30 million over the last 12 years and that’s just in Middleton. (For those of you who complain about development, think about the subsidy that that $30 million has provided to the city to keep the residential tax rate down.) More than anyone else, I have done more to support Middleton financially. (And when I do use TIF, it’s developer financed – i.e. I go and get my own TIF loan, for which I have to sign a guarantee to the bank for. That TIF loan is then paid back from the new property taxes that my development generates and pays; no taxpayer dollars involved.)
On top of that, I am probably the largest planter of trees and greenery in the metro area, having planted more landscaping than any government ever did. I also have been recognized as the single biggest contributor to energy efficiency in the state by Governor Doyle and to sustainability with our pioneering green initiatives. My family and I are also quietly one of the largest donors to charities and non-profits in the metro area supporting dozens of organizations that help the homeless, women, libraries, hospitals, the Boy Scouts, education, and more. I’m also probably the largest donor of park land. So, yes a lot of good comes from developers.
So, yes, I’m proud to be a developer. I feel that I have had a disproportionate impact on the community and that I have created places that people will live, work, shop and even recreate in – for the betterment of all.
Up Against the Wall is a monthly column written by Terrence Wall and reflects his views and opinions, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Middleton Times.