Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

City Sells Another Foreclosed Home

Graphic designer buys what may be the 531st home sold by city. It needs work.

By - Feb 4th, 2016 03:12 pm
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1900 W. Morgan Ave. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

1900 W. Morgan Ave. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

A long-vacant building at 1900 W. Morgan Ave. will soon be home to a graphic design studio led by Michelle Quinn. This will return to productive use one of the over 1,000 tax-foreclosed properties the city has in its possession, a win for taxpayers and one less liability for the city. The renovated building in Milwaukee’s Morgandale neighborhood is one more victory, coming after more than 530 city-owned foreclosures were sold by the city in 2015.

A ceremonial key transfer took place earlier this week, with Mayor Tom Barrett on hand to present Quinn, the new owner, with the keys to the building. Barrett noted that “moving foreclosed properties into circulation has been a priority of my administration for the last few years.” This sale, he added, represents a “micro solution to a macro problem,” with most of the properties the city is selling going to owner-occupied buyers.

Barrett cited three key reasons the city “feels so strongly about putting these properties back into circulation.” One, the city wants to see individuals and families living in the homes, rather than having them sit vacant, which chews up city resources. Two, having too many foreclosed properties in an area can trigger a downward spiral of lower values and more foreclosures that destroys neighborhoods. And three, the city “would rather have this property generating property taxes than using property taxes.” The latter, the mayor wryly acknowledged, is something the new owner might not be so thrilled about.

The district’s alderman Terry Witkowski was also on hand, whom the mayor praised as a “a very consistent and persistent advocate for the city moving this property.” Witkowski returned the favor, noting that Milwaukee “has become a model for what to do with [foreclosed properties], thanks to the leadership of Mayor Barrett.” Witkowski, speaking with a bit of hyperbole, declared the building “has been vacant probably 20 years” and boarded up for at least 10 of those years (city records indicate it was vacant by about 2009).

The 12-year council veteran noted that as long as he’s been in office people have complained about the property at neighborhood meetings, but the city’s hands were tied. The former owner, Henry Nunnemacher, continued to pay the taxes, even as the city tacked on additional charges for having to mow the grass or shovel snow. Finally, it became tax delinquent and the city was able to step in and issue a request-for-proposals for a new owner.

Design Studio

1900 W. Morgan Ave. Rendering

1900 W. Morgan Ave. Rendering

Quinn has grand plans for the 2,457 square-foot building. She’ll convert the first-floor of the building into a studio space for her design work, but also intends to carve out space for non-profits to meet. She also plans to move into the second-floor apartment, of which little remains. In a bold statement that may have given her contracting team a jolt, Quinn announced she’ll have the space open in nine months, but is “ambitiously hoping for four or five months.” Who’s in charge of delivering on such an aggressive timeline? Todd Fugh of Innovative Remodeling & Restoration.

“Down the road,” Quinn said, she intends to turn part of the building into a gallery space. She’s also looking to use part of the building as a “flex space” for her budding photography practice.

Besides all her planned renovations, Quinn has her work cut out. The building currently does not have power and also has a one-inch deep lake in the basement. A tour of the building with the new owner showed the structure is in good shape, but a 2012 complaint to the Department of Neighborhood Services doesn’t beat around the bush with the amount of cleanup needed, not to mention “rodents seen entering this building and in the area.”

Quinn purchased the building for $20,000 from the city and will receive a $65,000 grant from the city’s commercial foreclosed property renovation fund. Including the city’s grant, she expects the purchase and renovation to cost between $220,000 to $265,000.

You might be scratching your head at this point, wondering why she choose this building. “I live right down the street,” Quinn proclaimed at the press conference. If you want to see that blighted property in the neighborhood improved, there’s no surer way than buying it yourself and getting to work.

When she’s not working on her design business or new building, Quinn will continue to serve as an instructor at Gateway Technical College.

Photo Gallery

Building History

Built in 1929, the building was originally a meat market and grocery store according to city records.

Long-time residents of Milwaukee will remember the building as the home of the LeDoux Leather Company. The company, which opened in Milwaukee in 1929, relocated to the building in 1974. When they moved out, they left behind a curiously leather-adorned ceiling in a second-floor room that also featured newspaper-turned-wallpaper from a 1929 copy of Chicago’s Herald Examiner. The firm is still around, but has decamped to Muskego. Today they’re producing leather goods targeted at motorcycle riders, “re-enactment enthusiasts,” and game hunters.

City Properties for Sale

If you’re in the market for real estate, be it a single-family home or an old fire station, the city has a large directory of properties available for sale. And who knows, maybe the mayor will show up to hand you the key to your new home.

5 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: City Sells Another Foreclosed Home”

  1. Tina Klose says:

    Read the latest issue of the City Real Estate E-newsletter: http://www.milwaukee.gov/CityRealEstateE-Newsletter

    Whether you’re looking for a fixer-upper, a turn-key home, a lot to build on, a live/work space, or are just looking to improve your current City of Milwaukee home, we can help! Plus, the Homebuyer Assistance Program offers up to $20,000 in forgivable rehab loan funds when purchasing a City-owned home.

  2. BT says:

    I hope that ^^^^^^^TINA^^^^^^^^ above here works for the city, sounds like she does because I’ve made this point before so many times, even have sent emails to Mayor Barrett and other city officials as to one simple change they can make that will INSTANTLY make so many of these properties financially viable to renovate back to their original glory and I’ve NEVER even received a single response, which I find very annoying because I’m not someone clueless as to the entire scope of this, both the end covering the work itself, what it takes and what it costs, I’ve been doing this for many years! Yet, the idea that many of these homes and/or commercial are viable financially to buy and bring back to glory is a pipe dream, yet that could be so easily changed, if someone would put our city and its residents over $$$ throwing groups, only out for themselves.

    I’ve been in the real estate biz as both a WI licensed broker for 10+ years as well as having renovated numerous homes (and I mean the right way, pulling the permits, not cutting corners and hiding things that must be fixed to prevent much bigger future problems) starting out doing just little fixes on my own first home, then into a part time side business and now the majority of my work, focusing now just on the higher end of the market. I know darn well what it costs to do this work and in Milwaukee, unlike certain other places here such as Oak Creek, in Milwaukee ONLY a licensed master electrician/plumber can pull a permit for either and it wasn’t always that way, homeowners USED to be able to pull those permits like they still can today in Oak Creek for one, if it is an owner occupied home. They’ll need to go through the inspection process to make sure it is all done right, but NOT IN MKE, were the IBEW electricians union and plumbers union, simply to line pockets that didn’t need any lining!

    Sure, the one in a million tax foreclosed home on a nice part of south side, north side, NW side and most of all the east side MIGHT be worth buying and fixing, but so many, especially on the north side, likely stripped of much metal which is always in the electric, sometimes in the plumbing pipes as well, will be instantly stripped, so there’s TONS of work to do and you’re talking maybe $80 an hour! So, might as well fire up the bulldozers, since it looks obvious to me that these people talk a good game, but wait a second that means our mayor has to cross the unions, oh no just cannot d that!!!

    Soo, you’ve got a handful pricier areas that get snapped up asap, but until SOMEONE there has the guts to take on the unions that have greased up their coffers for years, to get the quid pro quo’s like this, until someone gets some guts and fearlessness, its a joke, total joke!! If you dn;t hae the balls to do that, then stop hyping it, wasting so much darn money, this is a big joke!!

  3. Juli Kaufmann says:

    Thanks for covering this great story and congratulations to Michelle Quinn. I’ve known Michelle for many years – she has been a proud Milwaukeean, with past locations in the Concordia/ Cold Spring and Brewers Hill neighborhoods. She is one of the quiet neighborhood heros who runs a small business while improving her surroundings. I am so excited to see this project unfold and know, under Michelle’s smart and creative leadership, it will catalyze the area into an even more vibrant place. Let this be a model for others – citizen-led change is both possible and necessary. So, who’s next?

  4. MKE says:

    This home used to be my grandparents house before they passed away 15+ years ago and it’s been vacant ever since. It was always so sad seeing their home get rundown- I briefly remember it when I was a little girl. It would be amazing for her to breath some life back into their old house.

    They used to own a leather shop in this building, which my dad has taken over (ledouxleather.com). He’s been trying to contact the city or the woman to go do a walk through it one last time, could anyone help with this?

  5. Tim says:

    What is with the brain dead union conspiracy theories? Most of the trades people out there are not union & don’t live in the city, why would the city do this to help unions? BT, get some fresh air.

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