WHEDA to Help Restore Soldiers Home
$1.4 million in low-income housing tax credits for 1860s “Old Main” building.
$13.6 million in new low-income housing tax credits from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority were announced today and among the projects chosen is the rehabilitation of the “Old Main” building in the Milwaukee County VA Soldiers Home Historic District.
The “Old Main” building is one of three original soldier homes remaining in the United States. They were built for veterans of the Civil War. The Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home was established in 1867, after women around Milwaukee raised about $100,000 to pay for it. The legislation that established the soldiers homes was actually signed by president Abraham Lincoln about a month before his assassination in April 1865.
The Alexander Company, a real estate development firm based in Madison, is leading the redevelopment of the old building. Joe Alexander, president of Alexander Company, told a crowd today that $100,000 in 1865, adjusted for inflation, is worth about $1.4 million today. “Which is the tax credit award that WHEDA has granted for this project,” he said. “I looked that up, that’s true.”
The project is also getting more than $6 million in state historic preservation tax credits and more than $6 million in federal historic preservation credits. All told, public funds account for about 90 percent of the project’s financing, said Alexander
The low-income housing tax credits are awarded over a 10-year period, and projects that receive them must reserve — for at least 30 years — a portion of their housing units for families that make 60 percent or less of the area median income.
Restoration of the “Old Main” is the first part of a $40 million two-phase redevelopment effort on the grounds of the Clement Zablocki Medical Center. Plans for the second phase include redeveloping the Headquarters Building and a number of duplexes on the medical center grounds. In the end, there will be 101 housing units.
“We have never been charged with something as important as the soldiers home project,” Alexander said.
The Department of Veterans Affairs chose Alexander Company to develop, but the firm is still working on the Enhanced Use lease for the project and will likely sign it by the end of the year. An Enhanced Use Lease is used to incentivize private developers to undertake a large project such as this. “Basically it’s a 75-year-lease from the federal government to a private development group,” said Jonathan Beck, the project manager for the Milwaukee Soldiers Home Project.
Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch described the current state of the “Old Main” as one of terrible disrepair. She said the floor was “literally spongy,” and there are exposed wires and falling ceiling tiles.
“We had to wear masks so as not to inhale whatever was in the air,” she said.
Alexander told the crowd that his grandfather spent time at the soldiers home after World War II. And Mayor Tom Barrett, whose father was also a veteran of World War II, grew up on the west side of Milwaukee and said, “I went through these grounds probably hundreds of times with my father.”
Barrett said he thinks his father did this to instill in him and his siblings an appreciation for service members that have lost life and limb. “This is a day I have been waiting for, for many, many years,” he said.
Additional Tax-Credit Projects In Milwaukee
WHEDA Executive Director Wyman Winston said the $13.6 million in low-income tax credits awarded today actually have a total value of roughly $136 million over the 10 years of the credits.
The credits will go to 26 projects around Wisconsin creating more than 1,300 affordable housing units.
In Milwaukee, along with the soldiers home, four other projects received $3.3 million in low-income tax credits. These projects are:
704 Place Apartments at 704 W. National Ave.: $76,078 in tax credits will help finance 47 affordable housing units in the 56-unit building being developed by Impact Seven and Rule Enterprises.
Century Building at 808 N. Old World Third St.: $43,793 in credits for 40 affordable units out of 44 in the building being redeveloped by Keystone Development and Alliance Housing Development.
Mill Road Library Redevelopment at 6431 N 76th St: $805,063 for 56 affordable units out of 65 in the mixed-use building, which includes a public library branch, being developed by Royal Capital and Maures Development Group.
Westlawn Renaissance III LLC located on W. Silver Spring Dr.: $1.05 million in tax credits for 79 affordable units out of 94 total, which are being developed by the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee.