Jeramey Jannene

St. Johns on the Lake Under Construction

By - Oct 26th, 2009 12:51 pm
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On October 15th, Saint John’s on the Lake broke ground on “The Expansion,” a new 21-story, $83 million tower along Prospect Avenue.  The tower, a senior apartment complex, will add 88 units to the St. John’s on the Lake complex at a cost of $946,306 each.  The units start at 1,140 square feet, and come with amenities that include an art gallery, bistro, fitness, swimming, and spa pools, and on top of that private terraces are included with every unit.  The building will also include “signature residents” on the top floor.  And the best part, it was planned to all be property tax free!

The existing building will be dwarfed in comparision to the 21-story tower that will consume the old surface parking lot.

The existing building will be dwarfed in comparision to the 21-story tower that will consume the old surface parking lot.

While normally the construction of an urban high rise wouldn’t draw resentment from this website, a high rise that was built tax-free seemed a bit odd.  After all, should the state of Wisconsin really grant a property tax exemption for luxury senior living? Before the latest state budget was passed, this facility (like almost all other non-profit hospitals, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, hospice facilities, and dorms) would have been entirely free of any property tax.  Michael Horne calculated exactly what that meant to the bottom line of the City, County, State, MPS, MATC, and MMSD, and it was almost $2 million, annually.

  • City of Milwaukee — $671,470
  • MPS                     — $684,750
  • County                  — $348,600
  • MATC                  — $161,020
  • MMSD                 — $113,710
  • State                      — $ 14,940

Obviously, that money could be used to hire a lot of teachers, police officers, and firefighters.  Not to mention plow snow, pick up garbage, clean parks, and keep libraries open.

St. John's on the Lake "The Expansion" as viewed from Prospect Avenue.

St. John’s on the Lake “The Expansion” as viewed from Prospect Avenue.

Had a future resident of the St. Johns on the Lake independent living facility simply elected to instead purchase a luxury condo at another high rise, say Kilbourn Tower, instead of The Expansion they would have been paid their fair share of property taxes.

That said, there is certainly good reason to grant exemptions to seniors residing in senior-living facilities.  They likely are on a fixed income and are potentially spending a considerable amount of money on medical care. But where should the line be drawn?  Clearly someone capable of paying an entrance fee starting at $270,000 and monthly fees that start at $3,000 is not living on your traditional fixed income.  They do not need a tax break simply to be able to live their life comfortably.

Thankfully, as part of 2010-2011 state budget that was signed into law by Governor Jim Doyle this summer, a compromise was reached by the Conference Committee that protects the interests of both fixed-income seniors and municipalities.  The Conference Committee narrowed the exemption to the following.

  • All units whose fair market value is 130% over the county average equalized value are assessable. In determining the fair market value of each unit the assessor must eliminate the value of the common area.
  • A maximum of 30 acres is exempt
  • If over 50% of the units are determined to be taxable, all of the common area becomes taxable. If 50% or less are taxable all of the common area is exempt.
  • The retirement home must be non-profit and benevolent to qualify for exemption.

In Milwaukee County, that 130% figure would equal a unit with a value of $240,330.63 (fun fact in Waukesha and Ozaukee County it would be right around $410,458).  With an average unit construction cost of $946,306 (which would include all the common area amenities), it’s pretty clear units will be paying property taxes from the minute they’re occupied.

As far as I can tell, problem solved.

From an urbanist’s perspective, it’s good to see more senior living being located in a walkable neighborhood (and correspondingly so in a pedestrian-friendly facility).  The residents will have access to all that the Lower East Side has to offer within walking distance from their apartment, and will be welcome new customers at any of the businesses.  Children and grand children coming to visit will have an easy time getting to the facility by car or bus (MCTS route #30 runs by the front door of the facility).  It’s also nice to see a large surface parking lot being replaced by a building, this will pay dividends by making the neighborhood as a whole more attractive to pedestrians, visitors, and potential residents alike (much as the unfortunately bankrupt Park Lafayette does just a few blocks away).  With the tax issues resolved, this building gets the seal of approval from this urbanist as it could have just as easily been a sprawling greenfield development in Lake Country.

Future taxpayers of St. Johns on the Lake, welcome to the neighborhood!

Categories: Real Estate

8 thoughts on “St. Johns on the Lake Under Construction”

  1. ewo says:

    While I agree that increasing urban density can help build a healthy and walkable community, I don’t think that seniors who buy million dollar condos are the type to walk to Brady Street. I think this will promote the Dallas model; ‘driving to sky scrapers.’ In my personal experience; a strong factor in a healthy community is when no one or two people have the means to acquire services on their own. When you have a concentration of wealthy people it often leads to segregation. Elderly people have a wealth of experience; they should be provided the opportunity to live through out the community where they can share their knowledge. This tower is the reason there are poor people.

  2. Alex says:

    love the building. Glass and steel. Looks very modern. We need more projects like that in MILWAUKEE.

  3. matthew says:

    The only way I can support this project is if it becomes taxable, or pays a PILOT.

  4. Dave Reid says:

    @matthew It is our understanding that because of the change in the law (state budget) it will be taxable.

  5. The construction noise is really getting to the folks on the south side of the existing building. My friend jumped on the bus and went to Badger Gun to buy silencing ear-muffs. I must go by and give it a listen.

  6. Sameena Mulla says:

    I am one of the residents on the south side and the noise is AWFUL. Construction starts early and of late has been going 6 days per week. The foreman says they will be at it for a year… where can I learn about Milwaukee noise ordinances?

  7. Erik Wanta says:

    Are they paying property taxes at 1756 N Prospect? I see zeros for assessed value.

    Address Taxkey Parcel type Owner occupied (O/N) Zip code Owner name 1 Owner mailing address Owner city, state Owner zip code Current assessment class Current assessment – land Current assessment – improvements Current assessment – total Number of rooms Number of units Year built Aldermanic district Building area (sq ft) Building type Census block Census tract Historic code (if apl) Land use code Land use group Lot area (sq ft) Police district Years tax delinquent (if apl) Zoning code House number – low Street direction Street name Street type GIS_DATETIME
    1756 N PROSPECT AV 3551911000 0 O 532020000 SAINT JOHNS COMMUNITIES INC 1840 N PROSPECT AVE MILWAUKEE WI 53202 9 0 0 0 Null 201 Null 4 Null Null 1002 186900 Null 8361 6 218686 1 Null RM7 1756 N PROSPECT AV 5/25/2016 1:01

  8. Erik Wanta says:

    The property owners applied for exemption under 70.11(4)(a) of the Wisconsin Statutes which specifies property owned and used exclusively by a religious or benevolent organization, or by a non-profit entity that is operated as a facility that is licensed, certified or registered under Chapter 50 of the Wisconsin Statutes.

    As such, it was determined that property would remain exempt. This determination was verified/confirmed with an opinion by the Department of Revenue.

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