Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Affordable Housing Project Secures Cleanup Loan for Former Factories

Community Within the Corridor development team would redevelop Briggs & Stratton complex at 32nd and Center.

By - Oct 16th, 2020 11:51 am
32nd and Center Site. Images from City of Milwaukee.

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

The city’s largest-ever private affordable housing development took another step forward Thursday.

The Community Within the Corridor development team, a partnership of Scott Crawford Inc. and Roers Companies, secured a $750,000 environmental cleanup loan to redevelop a series of former factory buildings. The loan would be used to support the creation of 197 units of housing spread across a $59 million redevelopment of the two-block campus.

From 1910 to 1930 the complex, located on the north side of the intersection of N. 32nd St. and W. Center St., was used for the manufacture of trunks, suitcases and travel bags according to a city report. After that Briggs & Stratton used it to manufacture gasoline engines until 1989. It was used as a warehouse until recently, now much of the complex is vacant.

The board of the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee (RACM) unanimously approved the loan from its Brownfield Revolving Loan Fund at its Thursday meeting. The funds come from a grant from the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). RACM senior environmental project engineer Tory Kress said the city has issued 15 loans to date, with 274 acres of land cleaned and $500 million in private investment created. “All our loans are performing and our model continues to be one that the EPA showcases,” said Kress.

Identified environmental problems include volatile organic compounds (VOCs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), arsenic, barium, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, asbestos and lead-based paint.

“Sounds like really bad stuff,” said Commissioner Bill Schwartz to Kress.

“It sounds scary, lots of big words, but it’s very common for what we see around the city,” said Kress. “I think there were some underground storage tanks here, which again is very common.”

She said the property is unique in that the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources already approved and closed a previous remediation plan in 2008 when the property was used for remediation. Now that development would disturb certain areas and people would live in the complex, a new plan is needed.

A DNR-approved plan includes excavation of 12,000 tons of impacted soil, maintenance of an existing cap and vapor dispersal system and replacing another vapor system. “It basically sucks the vapor out with a fan,” said Kress of the systems that vent air contaminants that result from soil and other ground contamination in basements.

Developer Que El-Amin, who has been pursuing the project since 2016, would have 17 years to repay the loan at 3.25 percent interest. The funds would be disbursed on a reimbursement basis. El-Amin 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.

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 Community Within the Corridor 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.

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.

Continuum Architects + Planners is leading the complex’s design and connected El-Amin to Roers. Greenfire Management Services will lead the project’s construction.

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 is also contributing $1 million in HOME funds, a federal affordable housing program from which the city receives an allocation.

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 shows 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.

RACM has used the loan fund for a variety of projects in 2020. The Admiral’s Wharf project received approval for a $1.5 million cleanup loan in September. Thursday’s meeting also included approval for a loan to support the Journal Square Lofts project.


Rendering and Site Plan

June 30th HOME Grant Announcement

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