Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Biggest Ever Affordable Housing Project Advances

197-unit, $59 million Community Within the Corridor project would get $3 million from city.

By - Jun 30th, 2020 11:43 am
32nd and Center Site. Images from City of Milwaukee.

32nd and Center Site. Images from City of Milwaukee.

The biggest proposed affordable housing development in the city took a major step forward Tuesday morning.

The Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee unanimously endorsed a $3.15 million financing package for the $59 million, 197-unit The Community Within the Corridor development.

Developer Que El-Amin, through his firm Scott Crawford Inc., will redevelop a vacant two-block, 6.99-acre manufacturing campus at N. 32nd St. and W. Center St. into one of the most substantial affordable housing developments in city and state history. The complex of buildings, the oldest of which dates back to 1906, was originally built for Briggs & Stratton. Much of it has been vacant since the 1980s according to a city report.

“We’re all cheering for you on this one,” said Alderman Ashanti Hamilton, one of many council members to speak in favor of the project and the development team’s persistence.

El-Amin has been working on the project since 2016. He secured zoning approval in 2017, alongside partners Mikal Wesley and Rayhainio Boynes, and now has added Roers Companies to bring the project’s financing to fruition.

The project sits on the eastern edge of the Sherman Park neighborhood, abutting the 30th Street railroad corridor. A mile to the north is the Century City business park, immediately south is Master Lock‘s manufacturing campus.

Units in the complex would range from studios to four-bedroom units, with rents ranging from $358 to $1,100. A total of 139 of the units would be set aside at below-market rents for individuals making no more than 60 percent of the area median income under the federal low-income housing tax credit program. The remaining 58 units would be set aside for individuals making no more than 80 percent of the area median income.

The project would include 23,000 square feet of commercial space and 40,000 square feet of community and recreational space. Uses for those spaces, for which letters of intent have been signed, include a day care, laundromat, gymnasium office space for Urban Underground, El-Amin’s Young Enterprising Society tech incubation program, Wesley’s Urbane Communities and Boynes’ Sharp Creatives.

“Our thought was to include everything that was needed on site for a successful family,” said El-Amin in a May interview with Urban Milwaukee.

The city’s primary financing commitment comes through a developer-financed tax incremental financing district that places the risk on the development team. The team would privately borrow the funds upfront and be repaid $3.15 million plus interest from incremental property tax revenue generated by the development over a period of 20 years.

The city, according to the TIF report, is also expected to contribute $1 million in HOME funds, a federal affordable housing program from which the city receives an allocation.

The project also has a budgeted figure of $107,000 for “grants.” A press conference to announce the city’s Community Development Block Grant allocations is scheduled to be held in front of the complex on Tuesday afternoon.

The Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority is providing $19.7 million in low-income housing tax credits that require the affordable units be set aside for a period of 30 years. The National Park Service and state will also provide $17.43 million in historic preservation tax credits, which will require much of the historic nature of the complex to be preserved.

El-Amin said that, in partnership with project architect Continuum Architects + Planners, a review of all the buildings had found that much could be saved. Some elements, including a tunnel, would be removed. “They really contained a lot of architectural features that you don’t see in buildings throughout the city,” he said.

Committee chair Jose G. Perez asked El-Amin how he managed to keep pushing for so many years.

“Thank God first, after that it was everybody pitching in at the right time,” said the developer. Continuum helped linked El-Amin with Roers, area Alderman Russell W. Stamper, II helped link El-Amin with the neighborhood and the Department of City Development and WHEDA provided support.

“It’s an honor to partner with them on a redevelopment of a major part of the 15th Aldermanic District,” said Stamper. He said El-Amin has gone above and beyond the need to engage with the neighborhood.

Part of that engagement will include hiring people from the neighborhood to help build the project. Because the project is receiving over $1 million in city support it will be required to have 40 percent of project work hours be completed by underemployed or unemployed city residents. At least 25 percent of the project’s general contracting must be awarded to disadvantaged small businesses.

“Obviously on a project of this size, that is very meaningful,” said Maria Prioletta, DCD special projects manager, of the hiring and contracting requirements.

Greenfire Management Services will lead the project’s construction. The city’s term sheet requires work to start by December 1st and be completed by April 30th, 2022.

A third-party report on the TIF’s viability reports that the project is expected to have an assessed value of $10,141,200. Rental properties in Wisconsin are assessed based on an income basis, not the cost of construction.

The financing package is scheduled to go before the full Common Council on July 7th.


Rendering and Site Plan

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