Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

McKinley School Plan Passed Despite Protests

Opponents of affordable housing plan show up at City Hall with signs, to no avail.

By - Nov 27th, 2018 03:17 pm
McKinley School redevelopment opponents. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

McKinley School redevelopment opponents. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Milwaukee Common Council unanimously approved a land sale and zoning package Tuesday morning for the redevelopment of the McKinley School at 2001 W. Vliet St. while a handful of project opponents held signs in opposition.

“No fair bidding” and “Apts Not Historical” read two of the four signs. Opposition to the project has been led by Gail Winston and Carol Caffrey.

Gorman & Co. is seeking to purchase the vacant school from the city and redevelop it into 35 affordable apartments for veterans. The developer would also add eight market-rate townhomes to the two-acre site’s northern boundary along W. Vliet St.

At a recent public hearing on the project, opponents requested ownership of half of the building and half of the low-income housing tax credits Gorman hopes to secure. Caffrey suggested a community center could be built in the building.

Gorman has already secured approval to leverage historic preservation tax credits to restore the school building, originally built in 1885. With the exclusive right to negotiate the firm will apply for low-income housing tax credits from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority. Requests for 2019 are due by December 14th.

The project won’t be cheap for Gorman. “We are planning to put $15 million into this deal,” said Gorman’s Milwaukee market director Ted Matkom at a recent hearing on the project. Department of City Development real estate services manager Amy Turim explained why: “The Department of Neighborhood Services had actually said this was the worst building they had ever seen.” She added that federal Environmental Protection Agency invested $425,000 for abatement of airborne asbestos to facilitate its redevelopment.

Unlike many of the other recently developed schools, which became available in the past decade as Milwaukee Public Schools enrollment declined, mostly due to the growth of voucher schools, McKinley was closed by MPS way back in the 1970’s. The district sold the building to the VE Carter Child Development Corporation in 1991. Carter operated a school in the building until 2009 and a day care until 2013. The city gained control of the building in 2016 via property tax foreclosure, the second time since 2010 that the building was foreclosed on by the city.

Caffrey and Winston testified in opposition to the proposal at public hearings held before the Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee and the City Plan Commission.

“This is still a contingent transaction. Just so that’s clear. This isn’t a done deal,” said area alderman Robert Bauman when the project was before the zoning committee. Should Gorman secure the low-income housing tax credits, the developer would need to come back to formally purchase the property.

Bauman said the city has held the project for over 90 days to allow alternative proposals to be submitted, but no formal submissions have been submitted.

Should Gorman not be able to redevelop the building, the city has a bigger problem on its hand. “We cannot afford the million plus to bring this property down,” said Turim. And according to Mayor Tom Barrett‘s 2019 budget proposal, she’s right. The mayor’s proposal allocated only $1 million for all city demolitions or deconstructions in 2019, with the city planning to demolish or deconstruct 28 properties out of the 495 that are eligible. Bauman successfully introduced an amendment to add $1.5 million to the fund via bonding, but the $2.5 million total will not fund demolition of even 100 properties.


School Photos

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One thought on “Eyes on Milwaukee: McKinley School Plan Passed Despite Protests”

  1. MitchellB says:

    So the protesters want the building to remain vacant and become blight? A community center would require funding, that doesn’t exist, and would require public funds or donations to keep the lights on. I’m not a fan of apartments and believe condos should be the goal, but this is better then nothing.

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