Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Convent Hill South on Track

Housing Authority preparing land sale for tower while Travaux seeks financing.

By - Feb 6th, 2020 06:40 pm
Convent Hill South. Rendering by Korb + Associates Architects.

Convent Hill South. Rendering by Korb + Associates Architects.

The Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee‘s planned 32-story mixed-income apartment tower took another step forward Thursday. A land sale was approved to create the development site for the project.

The city-affiliated authority, through its development arm Travaux, intends to build a $150 million apartment tower on the parking lot and green space immediately south of its Convent Hill senior housing building at 455 E. Ogden Ave. Known currently as Convent Hill South, it would contain a mix of luxury and affordable apartments.

Sitting in a community room overlooking the site, the Travaux board approved buying the 1.4-acre site Thursday for $1.89 million from HACM. The price is the fair market value as set by an April 2019 third-party appraisal.

HACM Chief Financial Officer Fernando Aniban described how the “circular” transaction would work. HACM would loan Travaux the money to buy the property, Travaux would pay HACM and HACM would use the funds to fund new housing at Westlawn. “This is needed for [U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] disposition purposes,” said Aniban.

HACM Assistant Secretary Bobbi Marsells said she has submitted the application to HUD to approve the land sale after the HACM board approved selling it. “I’m hoping it will not take them more than six weeks,” said Marsells. HACM secured conceptual approval 15 years ago to sell a portion of the site, created by the redevelopment of Convent Hill, to develop a smaller housing development.

Board member Gene Manzanet, community lending manager at US Bank, asked if there was a plan B. Marsells said Travaux could develop the property on a contract for HACM.

Travaux was created in 2015 to allow HACM to leverage low-income housing tax credits and provide more efficient real estate services. It will ultimately secure other equity investments to develop the tower.

Scott Simon, Travaux’s vice president of development, told the City Plan Commission last July that the project could break ground this spring in “a perfect world,” and while that’s not going to happen, Simon said the project is still on track. Travaux is pursuing a general contractor to solidify construction costs.

“We are waiting on financing,” said Simon in an interview after the vote. Travaux is working with “four or five” partners on financing said the vice president.

Finalizing those funding sources will dictate how much of the building is set aside as affordable and at what level. A number of options are available including Opportunity Zone investments for equity and low-income housing tax credits. HACM Secretary-Executive Director Antonio M. Perez has previously said he hopes the building will serve as a model of how to leverage profits from market housing to provide quality, affordable housing.

The market-rate housing in the building will pay property taxes, and depending on the financing source the affordable portion could as well.

The new tower, being designed by Korb + Associates Architects, would include 422 parking spaces and 40,000 square feet of office space at its base. Approximately 13 townhomes would be included at the base of the building facing E. Knapp St. and N. Milwaukee St. Up to 350 housing units could be included in the complex.


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