Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Jeffers Advancing New Plan to Redevelop Journal Sentinel Complex

Student housing for MATC up first.

By - Jul 9th, 2020 06:51 pm
Journal Square Lofts. Rendering by Eppstein Uhen Architects.

Journal Square Lofts. Rendering by Eppstein Uhen Architects.

Developer Joshua Jeffers has lined up a financing plan to advance his redevelopment of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel complex into the Journal Square Lofts. It’s an unconventional plan, as many of the developer’s Downtown projects have been.

J. Jeffers & Co. closed on the purchase of the nearly full-block complex in October 2019, paying $8 million for the property, and announced plans to redevelop it. The firm submitted a request to the state for low-income housing tax credits to redevelop much of the property into affordable housing. But when the annual, competitive awards were announced in April, Jeffers was one of many applicants that didn’t secure credits.

Instead of waiting another cycle and applying again, Jeffers is splitting up the multi-building project into different phases.

Under a new plan announced this week, the Milwaukee Area Technical College will agree to lease all 77 apartments created in the building at the northeast corner N. Old World Third St. and W. State St. That building, largely vacant today, was originally built in 1962, appears to be three, separate attached structures from the exterior and ranges in height from three to six stories.

The $27.7 million project would include 27 units, all studios, set aside for students earning less than 60 percent of the area’s median income.

The building would contain a mix of studio, two-bedroom and four-bedroom units and be completed in time for the 2021-2022 school year. A total of 189 beds would be included across all of the units.

“This is another opportunity for MATC to help break down financial barriers and give students access to a quality, in-demand education,” said MATC President Vicki Martin. “This is a significant expansion of our ability to offer affordable housing so close to our Downtown Milwaukee Campus. We are grateful to Joshua for his innovative approach and look forward to seeing this plan come to life to better serve our students.”

In a press release Jeffers and Martin said they are working on additional amenities for students that can be included in the building, including fitness facilities, a computer lab and academic support facilities.

The development plan relies on the use of historic preservation tax credits, private financing and $1 million reprogrammed from a tax incremental financing (TIF) district originally created to support the Milwaukee Bucks arena development.

“This project would not be possible without MATC’s commitment and the support of the Milwaukee Bucks and the City of Milwaukee,” Jeffers said. “By working together, we are able to make this a project that will transform the student life experience for those attending MATC and provide a significant boost to the area.”

The $1 million in city funds would be used for facade restoration and affordable housing, according to a city report. Jeffers would privately borrow the funds up-front and be repaid over a period of ten years, plus 4.5 percent interest, through incremental property tax revenue generated by the development. The Common Council needs to approve the request. The district originally was created in 2015 to provide $20 million to the Bucks, including $12 million for the plaza and $8 million towards a new parking structure.

“We are pleased to expand our commitment to the City of Milwaukee and help MATC increase the services it provides to its students,” said Bucks president Peter Feigin. “This is a win for everyone involved, and the Bucks are proud to be part of this joint effort to expand affordable housing in the area.”

In exchange for accepting the TIF funds, Jeffers would be required to have 40 percent of the construction work hours performed by unemployed or underemployed city residents. At least 25 percent of the project’s contracts by value would need to go to certified disadvantaged businesses.

A second phase would contain market-rate housing in the six-story Journal Communications building at the northwest corner of N. Vel R. Phillips Avenue and W. State Street. A zoning change for the property, submitted in November 2019, included a plan for 103 units and underground parking.

That Art Deco building is still home to the editorial and sales operations of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, but much of the 256,000-square-foot structure, built in 1924, is vacant including the area once home to the printing presses. The newspaper plans to relocate to the 330 Kilbourn office complex.

The combined development has an estimated cost of $54 million according to a city report.

A third building, the vacant four-story structure at 918 N. Vel R. Phillips Ave. formerly used by the Milwaukee Sentinel, is not included in the current plans and is described as being in “early stages of discussion” according to Jeffers’ press release.

All three buildings are subject to Historic Preservation Commission oversight following a 2019 designation.

A large parking lot at the southeast corner of the block is not part of the plan. The building occupied by Major Goolsby’s restaurant at the southwest corner of the block is also not currently included in the redevelopment plan, but is owned by J. Jeffers & Co.



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One thought on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Jeffers Advancing New Plan to Redevelop Journal Sentinel Complex”

  1. hillard says:

    I know it is an unnecessary luxury, but it would be amazing if they restored the original frieze depicting the history of communication. I want to say someone created a 3D model of it before it was torn out?

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