Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

New Construction in Urban Subdivision

New house marks the restart of long-dormant, west-side subdivisions.

By - Dec 29th, 2020 01:12 pm
House in Josey Heights along N. 13th Ln. with the downtown skyline in background. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

House in Josey Heights along N. 13th Ln. with the downtown skyline in background. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Construction started Tuesday on Heidi Moore‘s new house.

But it’s as important a milestone for the City of Milwaukee as it is for Moore. The house represents the restart of homebuilding on two city-owned, urban subdivisions, Josey Heights and Walnut Circle, located on the city’s Near West Side.

The two subdivisions, located on multi-block lots at N. 12th St. and W. Lloyd St. (Josey Heights) and N. 20th St. and W. Walnut St. (Walnut Circle), were created in the mid-2000s as part of an attempt to create new, market-rate housing. But after private developers secured a few initial buyers, things stalled out. The city ended up owning the remaining lots, 62 in total, but didn’t find many takers, even at $1 per lot.

Earlier this year, the city boosted its incentive package. A $10,000 grant became a $30,000 grant. Michael Emem of Emem Group designed three new ready-to-build home options.

The $30,000 grant comes in the form of a forgivable second mortgage for up to 10 buyers. The mortgage is to be forgiven after seven years of owner occupancy. The forgivable mortgage funds come from the city, Associated Bank and the Zilber Family Foundation.

The marketing and subsidy boost was championed by area Alderman Russell W. Stamper, II.

City officials joined Moore at 2018 N. 14th St. in Josey Heights to celebrate the start of construction. Hers is the first in a series of homes to be built.

The development costs for the three Emem home designs range from $250,000 to $280,000. During an August interview, Emem said he had six prospective buyers and expected to begin construction by the end of 2020. He has experience with Walnut Circle: he worked for the original developer, Carla Cross, when model homes were built.

Prospective homeowners in each area are eligible for the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority‘s Transform Advantage first-mortgage program. The program doesn’t require a down payment and accrues no interest with no monthly payments while the home is being constructed.

The Walnut Circle site was previously occupied by a Sentry grocery store.

The 7.3-acre Josey Heights site was formerly a playfield for the Lloyd Street School that was cleared for an unbuilt freeway. It contains the first “green street” in the city built from permeable pavers. The site is designed to contain one million gallons of stormwater annually.

Josey Heights is named for Jarius Anthony Josey, a newspaper publisher and advocate for housing and jobs for Milwaukee’s early African-American residents. Josey, named the “first mayor of black Milwaukee,” passed away in 1957.

Both sites include the necessary utility infrastructure, including water, sewer and electrical service lines.

Home Designs and Subdivision Maps

Walnut Circle

Josey Heights

2 thoughts on “Eyes on Milwaukee: New Construction in Urban Subdivision”

  1. lccfccoop2 says:

    Nice to see some good news for a change. Sure hope this works out so there will be more such development.

  2. Alan Bartelme says:

    “The development costs for the three Emem home designs range from $250,000 to $280,000.”

    Is it possible anymore to build houses for less? I would think a development like this would do better if it offered smaller, less expensive houses. Even at a sub-4% mortgage over 30 years, the payments including taxes would be over $1,500 per month unless you can put down a significant down payment.

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