Jeramey Jannene
Plats and Parcels

City Housing Program Targets Emerging Developers

MERI 2.0 intended to create jobs, train developers and rehab tax-foreclosed homes.

By - Apr 12th, 2020 11:22 am
A city-owned home on N. 21st. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

A city-owned home on N. 21st. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Department of City Development is gearing up for the second round of a housing rehabilitation program designed to create jobs, improve the city’s housing stock and create a new class of real estate developers.

The Milwaukee Employment/Renovation Initiative program, better known as MERI, was launched in Sherman Park in 2017 and completed in July 2019 with 104 home renovations.

The program provides cash grants and $1 city-owned, foreclosed homes to developers in exchange for developers hiring unemployed or underemployed city residents. The city funds are intended to plug a financing gap that the private market often doesn’t because of low home sale prices.

MERI 2.0, as the next round is known, includes 11 developers. “You will find that a lot of bigger companies are not on the list,” said DCD real estate services manager Amy Turim last week in briefing the Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee. The group includes eight small firms and three non-profits.

“We are quite enthusiastic at this point on the selection process and the group of developers we have selected,” she said.

A $5,000 grant for the employment portion will be provided for every home and grants of up-to-$15,000 will be awarded on a property-by-property basis to offset the rehabilitation costs. Additional funds could be allocated if the home is on the city’s raze list. Targeted workers must perform at least 500 hours of work on each home.

Rebab costs are estimated at $50,000 to $70,000 per property according to DCD redevelopment and special projects manager Maria Prioletta. All of the houses will be single-family homes or duplexes.

The city will need to allocate $2 million to the effort over two years to complete the project. The council canceled a stalled housing program in January and reallocated $580,000 towards MERI 2.0. Another $1 million is planned to come from borrowing.

The properties will be clustered in the sixth, seventh and 15th aldermanic districts. The area is roughly bounded by W. Capitol Dr., W. Juneau Ave., N. Holton St. and N. 51st St. “That’s where well over 70 percent of our housing inventory is located,” said Turim.

Southside organization Layton Boulevard West Neighbors is one of the non-profit participants, but will focus on the northside neighborhood of Lindsay Heights because of a shortage of tax-foreclosed, city-owned homes on the South Side. Turim said the Zilber Family Foundation, which supports LBWN, is providing a $120,000 grant to support the organization’s work in one of its other target neighborhoods.

Other organizations, including the Neighborhood Improvement Development Corporation (NIDC), LISC Milwaukee and Wisconsin Preservation Fund, could be involved as funders said the DCD representatives.

Developers were selected via a competitive bidding process. A total of 19 applications were submitted. The criteria incentivized up-and-coming developers. “We actually scored non-emerging developers separately from non-emerging developers,” said Turim.

Turim said many of the participants are graduates of the Associates in Commercial Real Estate (ACRE) program designed to train women and minorities for careers in real estate.

Strong Blocks, Revive MKE, Advance Construction and Ezekiel Community Development Corp. will participate in the program for the second time.

How will the pandemic affect things? Turim said she would be meeting with the participants to assess their capability to move forward. The developers were expected to take ownership of the properties, all of which are currently vacant, within 30 days. “We are going to the best of our ability try to move forward.”

The committee unanimously approved the $1 million borrowing request. The file will go before the full council on April 14th.


MERI 1.0 Press Conference

Bay View Developer Thinks Small

Developer Ryan Konicek has plans to build the smallest apartment building constructed in Bay View in quite some time. The new building will contain a single unit and have less than 1,000 square feet of space.

“My brother and I are looking to see if this is a concept (small home with loft and low square footage) that will strike a positive chord with young folks moving to Bay View who want to move out of an apartment but aren’t ready to commit to a full home,” said Konicek via email. “This is essentially a mix between your own single-family home and an apartment.”

Konicek acquired a bungalow at 2549-2551 S. Logan Ave. in May 2019 for $145,000, and with it a small, one-story building on the property.

The one-story building has been demolished and Konicek is planning to put up a two-story structure with a mono-pitched roof.

Read the full article

Boarded Up Businesses Appear Across Milwaukee

The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped much of urban life. Across the country streets are quieter, office buildings are dark and air pollution is down.

You could be convinced in many areas of Milwaukee that it’s simply a Sunday. Much looks the same as it would on a spring weekend. But a few businesses across the city have boarded up their windows with plywood and closed down, even if they weren’t required to.

Glorioso’s Italian Market1011 E. Brady St., was the first location spotted by Urban Milwaukee. The grocery store has been boarded up since at least March 25th and closed since March 17th, despite the fact that many grocery stores are doing record business and allowed to stay open under Governor Tony Evers “safer at home” order.

The West Elm furniture and home decor store, at 342 N. Water St. across from the Milwaukee Public Market, was also boarded up despite its windows being above ground level. The building lobby, which provides access to the apartments and office space upstairs, remains open. West Elm stores across the country are closed and boarded up, part of an international trend for major retailers.

Read the full article

New Northwest Side Assisted Living Facility Gets Committee Approval

The Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to endorse a new assisted living facility for the city’s far northwest side.

The project, to be known as Ameira Orchids Assisted Living, includes two one-story, 50-unit buildings. It requires a zoning change from the Common Council to be developed.

The 9.16-acre site at 10401 W. Bradley Rd. is currently vacant. Top Leaf Development would build the project in phases, starting with a 25-unit first phase. Cache’ James Better Living LLC would operate the facility.

Care would be focused on those who are of an advanced age, terminally ill or have dementia.

Read the full article

Construction Starting Soon On State Fair Park Care Facility

The Army Corps of Engineers will soon start construction of an alternative care facility at the Wisconsin State Fair Park Exposition Center, to increase healthcare capacity for the coming surge in cases of COVID-19 that local officials expect to hit Milwaukee sometime near the end of this month.

Gov. Tony Evers announced Thursday that the corps is already mobilizing at the exposition center “to begin development of an alternative care facility.”

For weeks, local officials have been scouting possible locations for alternative care facilities, which will act as overflow capacity for those with mild cases of COVID-19 during a surge that may overwhelm hospitals. It was announced in early April that the State Fair Park Exposition Center could become a care facility with up to 1,200 beds.

Read the full article

Downtown Hotel Trio Takes Shape

Hotel developer JR Hospitality, in partnership with Hawkeye Hotels, is working to open three hotels with 331 rooms planned between them. The partners had originally hoped to open the hotels in time for the DNC’s original July run, but encountered delays with preparing the site.

Will delaying the Democratic National Convention until August allow the downtown hotels to be completed in time?

The firms intend to develop and operate Holiday Inn Express (116 guest rooms), Home2 Suites by Hilton (115 guest rooms) and Tru by Hilton (100 guest rooms) hotels at the southwest corner of E. Michigan St. and N. Jefferson St.

Read the full article

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Related Legislation: File 191894

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