School Will Become Apartment Complex
Former 37th Street School will be turned into 50 senior apartments, 10 townhomes.
The City of Milwaukee is moving forward with selling another vacant school building now that a state moratorium on such actions has been lifted.
The former 37th Street Elementary School in the Washington Park neighborhood will likely be sold, pending certain conditions on the sale and a Common Council vote, to developers with plans for a $15 million residential development. The co-developers, Heartland Housing, Inc. and Community First, plan to develop 50 affordable senior apartments in the 62,555 square foot building and 10 three-bedroom townhomes within the 1.2 acre site.
The school, built in 1903, has been vacant since 2006. It was declared surplus in 2015, the same year a state statute went into effect requiring the city to market surplus Milwaukee Public School properties only to educational use operators for two years.
“We’ve been working on this project effectively since 2015 when it was initially RFP’d and then state statute put things on hold,” said Matt Melendes, associate director of Heartland Housing, Inc.
The developers plan to go after low-income-housing tax credits and historic-preservation tax credits, before the per-project cap for the latter is significantly diminished. During the latest budget process Gov. Scott Walker used a veto to reduce the per-project cap for historic tax credits by 90 percent from $5 million to $500,000.
“Take advantage of hopefully the successful application, before the misguided efforts to chop off at the knee, well probably not even the knee, the waist, the historic tax credits… which certainly provides great benefit,” said Ald. Jim Bohl, chair of the Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee.
The building at 1715 N. 37th St. will be sold for $210,000, which is $40,000 more than it was appraised for in 2016. The developers want to secure tax credits before they purchase. And the city has several contingencies for sale. The developers must get any required zoning entitlements, have a site plan approved by the Department of City Development, and a best efforts agreement for RPP workers and small business enterprises must be worked out with the city.
Heartland Housing is a Chicago-based developer with an office in Milwaukee, but they chose to partner with Community First, a non-profit economic development agency, to work closely with the surrounding community on the development. Community First primarily works on administering the city’s Neighborhood Improvement Plan, which provides forgivable loans to low-income residents for home improvement. And the organization already works with seniors in the neighborhood surrounding the development site, said Lamont Davis, program director for Community First.
“We realize that as seniors age they don’t want to cut grass, they don’t want to do snow removal,” Davis said. “This is a good fit for our seniors who make up the core of what we do.”