Oshkosh inventor / entrepreneur TJ Rodgers becomes purchaser of Northwestern building
By Miles Maguire
TJ Rodgers, the Oshkosh-born inventor and entrepreneur, has taken on another local rescue project, this time the nearly empty Daily Northwestern building on State Street.
In a YouTube interview posted by The Venture Project, Rodgers announced that he had just purchased the site. The historic building was scheduled to be auctioned last month, but was pulled from the market at the last minute, when Rodgers entered the scene.
Rodgers made his fortune in Silicon Valley and in recent years has spent some of his money in the Oshkosh region. His local businesses include TJ’s Harbor Restaurant on Highway 45 and TJ’s Highland Steakhouse at Oshkosh Country Club, an establishment he owns through a company called Team SNW.
Last year he and his wife, Valeta, stepped in to buy Ardy & Ed’s Drive In when the owners put it up for sale.
The Northwestern Building is considered one of the most distinctive and attractive buildings in downtown Oshkosh. It has a two-story lobby dominated by a huge marble counter under an intricate wooden ceiling.
This space has been proposed as a restaurant dining room or possible reception space for a charming hotel.
Rodgers did not reveal his plans for the structure. ” I’m going up [with] something cool there, ”he said in the interview.
“It’s exciting,” said City Manager Mark Rohloff. “He’s obviously invested in Oshkosh in recent years. This is a good thing.”
Kris Larson, restaurateur and store owner and vice chairman of the board of directors of the Downtown Oshkosh Business Investment District, described Rodgers as “a gem.”
Rodgers “takes care of the good stuff,” Larson said. “He has a good track record of making things better, and that’s what we need for this building. “
In recent years, the building has been largely vacant. City land records show that Northwestern’s current publisher, Gannett Co. Inc., sold the main building, an adjacent structure, and two adjacent plots in 2017 for $ 550,213.
About a third of the space is leased to Gannett, who pays $ 192,600 per year under a lease that runs until 2024, according to the auction site.
The purchase price was not disclosed and the city’s land records have not been updated to reflect the change in ownership.
Although the building is in good condition, the cost of the renovation will still be significant. The historic nature of the building requires the preservation of many of its design features, a factor that could limit economic returns.
The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a designation that may impose restrictions if the project receives federal funding.
A financially attractive feature of the Northwestern Building is that it sits in a federally designated Opportunity Zone. Opportunity Zones are financially struggling neighborhoods where high-income investors are offered powerful tax incentives to buy and improve property.
Such incentives were cited as a key factor that drew Merge Urban Development Group to Oshkosh, where the Iowa-based company recently completed the Brio Building on Jackson Street and is moving forward with three more structures and a development. of townhouses in a waterfront neighborhood off Chemin Marion.
Other state, local, and federal incentives may also be available, depending on the eventual use of the building.
Rodgers’ Wikipedia page lists nearly two dozen patents, mostly related to electronics, but also including a press for making wine. He graduated from Dartmouth College and holds a doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University.
In 1982, he helped found Cypress Semiconductor, where he was CEO for 34 years. He is the past president of the Semiconductor Industry Association and SunPower Corp.
Rodgers has been a strong advocate of free markets and a critic of “corporate welfare”.
His philanthropic efforts have supported the Second Harvest Food Bank and the California Alliance of African American Educators.
“Rodgers’ personal interests include attending two movies a week and reviewing movie reviews, which he has a great contempt for,” according to his website.
“He also enjoys cooking, especially Italian, French and Chinese cuisine; collect wines, especially French Burgundies; and advise his wife, Valeta, in the management of their cellar, Clos de la Tech, in her mission “to produce the best pinot noir in the New World”, “says her website.
Rodgers was not immediately available for comment.
In the YouTube interview, he also described plans to fund a “little house project” in Oshkosh and the development of Country Harbor in Kalbus.