Milwaukee Business Journal Executive Profile | Cindy Shaffer

DEVELOPER SUCCEEDS THROUGH SHEER PERSISTENCE

Cindy Shaffer, onsite at MTC

Cindy Shaffer, onsite at MTC

 

{Originally published on February 20, 2015} 
 

Construction of tall apartment buildings in the Mequon Town Center was well underway outside the windows of the American Legion Post as developer Cindy Shaffer sat describing how people thought the project could never happen.

The skepticism was warranted. Mequon hadn't seen a multifamily housing building go up in two decades, and city funding for private projects is rare, as are three-and-a-half story buildings. But Shaffer, in partnership with Milwaukee-based WiRED Properties, made all of those things happen while also building a new home for the local American Legion Post in the development.

"It's a lot of hard work and it's persistence," Shaffer said. "I don't take 'no' for an answer. There's many different ways to skin a cat."

Mequon Town Center, with 28 apartments and significant retail space at Mequon and Cedarburg roads, is set for completion this summer. Shaffer, owner of Shaffer Development LLC, is on to her next challenge, a $17 million redevelopment of a contaminated site called the "lumberyard" in Grafton. The first phase of that project with 59 apartments will begin later this year .

The lumberyard is Shaffer's second major commercial development. She started a real estate career in 2001 after working in the hotel industry and running 30 Molly Maid franchises across the Southeast U.S. Shaffer said real estate always was an interest, dating back to childhood when her parents would take her on tours of houses that they considered buying as investments.

"They both grew up during the Depression and never wanted to go into debt, so they never bought anything," Shaffer said. "My father died when I was 13 and my mother worked to support us, and it always stuck with me that if they had purchased some of those investment properties life might have been different."

Shaffer started her real estate career converting duplex apartments in Cedarburg into condos. At the time, she said, single-family houses were selling for $200,000 and up, while she sold her condos for $150,000.

"I researched the market," Shaffer said. "I look for a niche. When I do anything I do, any kind of businesses that I've done, I look for a niche and look for a demand that is not being filled."

Shaffer rehabbed and sold six duplexes before scaling up to commercial projects. She learned real estate from firsthand experience and from others in the industry.

"I didn't major in real estate; it was more the school of hard knocks," Shaffer said. "I have to say the people in this industry were very helpful to me."

Glenn Stadler, senior vice president of commercial banking for Westbury Bank, West Bend, said Shaffer is always trying to learn and chooses strong collaborators.

"She's just a go-getter, and willing to put in the time to get done what she needs to get done," Stadler said.

Shaffer said she wants to continue to focus on Ozaukee County, developing apartments and maybe wading into industrial projects.

"There's some big guys that came to town and they can't get in here," she said. "They don't want to deal with it. They can go somewhere else and people will roll out the red carpet and say 'come in and build your 200 units.' It's not like that here. There have been extremely high barriers to entry in Ozaukee County."

Shaffer joked that her niche now is "I pick the sites nobody else wants."

The Mequon Town Center site was challenging because she had to assemble multiple properties, including a gas station and neighboring land owned by the local American Legion Post.

Legion members wanted a new building, but wanted to keep their location, she said.

The solution was to demolish the Legion hall, but move the gas station building into its place. The gas station was renovated and expanded into the new hall for the American Legion, which has a commander who calls Shaffer his "sweetheart."

The project demonstrates Shaffer's approach that real estate is a "relationship business." She said the American Legion Post is the project she is most proud of thus far.

"That's really what development is all about, making things better and providing a better place for people," she said. "My philosophy in business is everybody has to do well. Of course I'm trying to make money, but if you make money and the person you are with is making money and doing well, everyone wins."

CINDY SHAFFER

    •    Title: Owner

    •    Company: Shaffer Development LLC, Mequon

    •    Education: Bachelor's degree in marketing and communications, University of Wisconsin-Madison

    •    Family: Three children — Haley, 24; Emily, 21; Marty, 17

    •    Resides: Mequon for the last 20 years; grew up in Shorewood, lived in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Miami before returning to Wisconsin

    •    Age: 52

    •    Best decision: "Leaving corporate America and starting my own business"

    •    Toughest decision: "Leaving corporate America and starting my own business"

    •    Like best about your job: "The challenge of acquiring properties and working with multiple parties to create a meaningful development. It is like putting together pieces of a puzzle — the sense of accomplishment when it all comes together and the relationships and friendships that are built in the process."

    •    Most important lesson learned: "To be persistent, hard working, honest and fair. Do your homework, listen and try to provide value to all sides."

    •    Pastimes: Snow skiing, water skiing, hiking, kayaking and playing the guitar

    •    Last book you read: "Usually reading two or three, currently: 'I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings' by Maya Angelou; 'Getting To Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In' by Roger Fisher and William Ury; and 'The New Rules of Real Estate' by Spencer Rascoff and Stan Humphries"

    •    What's playing on your car radio: "WUWM, Top 20 and I recently started listening to some country."

    •    First job: "Dishwasher at Columbia Hospital"

 

Sean Ryan | Milwaukee Business Journal
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Shaffer to develop 13 acres in Mequon Town Center district

Mequon — The Mequon Common Council has chosen Mequon-based Shaffer Development to develop 13.4 acres of city-owned land north of Mequon Road, between the railroad tracks and Buntrock Avenue.

Mequon solicited proposals from developers in July, offering to sell the land for $1 to a developer who could generate $25 million in additional property value and build on the spirit of the town center zoning district, which prioritizes pedestrian-oriented, mixed-use developments with outdoor gathering spaces. 

After considering proposals from six developers, the Mequon Common Council on Nov. 11 chose Shaffer Development, which is best known in Mequon for its work on the Mequon Town Center development at Mequon and Cedarburg roads. Commercial space in the Mequon Town Center is 95 percent leased. Colectivo Coffee opened Monday, Nov. 16, and construction is underway at Ruby Tap and Cafe Hollander.

Shaffer Development owner Cindy Shaffer said her Heritage Commons proposal creates a combination of retail, residential, community venues and green space designed to create an active, engaging space for residents and visitors. 

"I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity to create a legacy development in the city of Mequon," she said. "It is a rare opportunity to be able to collaborate with adjacent properties and work in your home town."

Shaffer is also working on a 72-unit mixed use apartment project in Grafton. That project, titled "The Lumberyard 1505," is slated to start in spring 2016.

Mequon Mayor Dan Abendroth said Heritage Commons marks a "transformative development" in the Town Center district.

"We fully expect the Town Center Heritage Commons to become a gathering place for residents and visitors," Abendroth said. "We are excited to have a development project that capitalizes on our city's rich history while providing an easily accessible community, residential and retail space."

Kim Tollefson, the city's director of community development, said the purchase and development agreement will be completed by the end of January.

Six developers applied for the opportunity to develop the 13.4 acres of land in the Mequon Town Center district. That pool was narrowed to three finalists: United Financial Group, Shaffer Development and WiRED Properties, which co-developed the Mequon Town Center project with Shaffer Development. 

The city was willing to sell the property for $1 in order to create additional value in Tax Incremental District #3. TID 3 was created in 2008, and has since generated between $30 million and $40 million in value. The TID is scheduled to close in 2028.

Grafton Plan Commission approves Lumberyard 1505 apartment, retail building

A first planned apartment/retail building in the Lumberyard 1505 redevelopment gained a recommendation from Grafton’s Plan Commission on Tuesday. 

Lumberyard 1505 (rendering)

Lumberyard 1505 (rendering)

The project at Wisconsin Avenue and Beech Street is the first of an envisioned three buildings on a 4.7-acre property. The village and Mequon-based Shaffer Development LLC have teamed to redevelop land at Wisconsin Avenue and Beech Street. 

Construction could begin this fall on the first phase, which features a building standing three and four stories tall, with 72 apartments and first-floor spaces for four retailers. Apartments could open in summer 2016, with rents ranging from $895 for micro apartments to $1,685 for three-bedroom units. 

Shaffer Development is hoping to attract a financial institution, coffee shop, hair salon and restaurant for those spaces, but no leases have been signed, according to a June 16 village report. 

That building gained Grafton Plan Commission approval Tuesday, and will go to the Village Board for consideration in July. 

A second phase could bring a second apartment building with 54 units and a stand-alone, 3,640- square-foot retail building on Wisconsin Avenue. 

Read source article by Sean Ryan here