Jeramey Jannene
Plats and Parcels

New Apartments for Downtown Dead Zone

Plus: A rundown of the week's real estate news.

By - Jan 17th, 2021 03:13 pm
Development site owned by Marquette University. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Development site owned by Marquette University (700 Lofts at left). Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

In 2012, an Urban Milwaukee article described how two new apartment buildings would bring activity to two dead zones at the edge of Downtown.

One of those complexes, the 700 Lofts, was proposed for a pair of underutilized buildings at the corner of W. Michigan St. and N. James Lovell St. Bear Development completed the 49-unit, affordable housing project in the ensuing years.

But the dead zone didn’t disappear, largely because a multi-block project proposed across the street by Marquette University didn’t move forward.

The university began assembling the nine, mostly-vacant properties in 2014 for a $120 million Athletic and Human Performance Research Center in partnership with Aurora Health Care. But Aurora pulled out of the project and Marquette ended up building a scaled-down version at 733 N. 12th St., closer to the middle of its campus.

Now Bear Development is looking to develop part of the site, which is roughly bordered by W. Michigan St., Interstate 794, N. James Lovell St. and Interstate 43.

The company applied for low-income housing tax credits as part of the annual competitive program administered by the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority. The project, labeled Michigan Street Commons, would include 140 apartments, all of which would be set aside at below-market rents.

Multiple sources confirmed Bear’s development would not fill the entire site and that other projects are planned for the 6.9-acre site.

The move explains why Marquette sought to rezone seven of the nine parcels in September. The Common Council unanimously granted the request, switching the zoning to C9G for “mixed activity” which allows retail, service, light manufacturing, warehousing and residential uses and is explicitly targeted at land on the downtown periphery.

“We often have conversations with outside entities that are interested in seeking synergistic, mission-aligned opportunities to develop the property. Marquette is asking for this zoning change to allow for the broadest possible options for development,” said the university in a statement at the time.

City records indicate the site covers 302,431 square feet and was acquired in multiple transactions for $6.67 million. The rezoning request covered parcels at 533 N. 9th St.547 N. 9th St.545 N. James Lovell St.555 N. James Lovell St.803 W. Michigan St.521 N. 8th St. and 531 N. 8th St. Two parcels that Marquette owns just east of the site weren’t included in the rezoning request: A former hotel at 633 W. Michigan St. and an office building at 525 N. 6th St.

One of the properties, 545 N. James Lovell St., was a surface parking lot owned by Bear. Marquette paid $725,000 for the property in 2015.

A large portion of the site was created by removing access ramps to the Marquette Interchange and relocating elevated freeway structures during the interchange’s early 2005 reconstruction.

The Michigan Street Commons project is one of two Bear is pursuing in Milwaukee through the affordable housing program. It is also seeking credits to advance the redevelopment of the Filer & Stowell complex at 147 E. Becher St.

Want to know if an area is a dead zone? We suggested an easy test in 2012 to assess an area’s vibrancy. How easy is it to find on-street parking? If you have your choice of spots you’re in a dead zone.

Site Photos

Weekly Recap

37th Street School Finds New Life

A long-vacant school will soon become 49 apartments.

Built in 1903, the 37th Street School has been vacant since 2006. Now construction is well underway to transform the former Milwaukee Public Schools building into housing.

Heartland Housing and Community First are partnering on the Washington Park neighborhood development.

Read the full article

Rent Down 1% Locally Since Start of Pandemic

Residential rent prices are down 1% since March according to a new report from Apartment List, a property listing website.

That’s good news for renters and in sharp contrast to the company’s August report, when Milwaukee rents had grown by 0.7% since March as the pandemic appeared to be increasing demand in a number of mid-sized cities.

Rents across the country are now down on average 1.5% since March 1st.

Read the full article

Program Teaches Tenants Rights for Renters

Tina Wilson wants people to know their rights.

Wilson, the portfolio manager for Ogden and Company, a real estate company, has seen what it looks like when tenants are unfamiliar with the renting process.

“People often get taken advantage of,” Wilson said. “There are things you think people should know, and they just don’t.”

Read the full article

Milwaukee’s Most Valuable Condominiums

Last week we brought you a report on Milwaukee’s most valuable properties by assessed value. But that report excluded a key building type – condominium developments with multiple owners.

Apartment complexes like 7Seventy7 appeared in the top 10 because a single company owns the entire complex. But what about when the units are individually owned instead of rented?

A number of condominium towers are among the most valuable properties in the city if each unit in the structure is included. They don’t get a single property tax bill, but condominium complexes are huge revenue generators for local government.

Read the full article

Housing Shortage Driving Prices Higher

Despite a global pandemic, the Milwaukee area housing market didn’t slow down in 2020. And the head of the Greater Milwaukee Association of REALTORS (GMAR) thinks 2021 will be even busier.

“When the world turned upside down because of coronavirus, we thought uh-oh, this is going to be a really bad year,” said GMAR president Michael Ruzicka in an interview.

Read the full article

Homeless Program Expands Urban Agriculture

The MacCanon Brown Homeless Sanctuary will purchase three vacant lots from the City of Milwaukee as part of an effort to build out a daytime resource center.

The charitable organization has already been using the N. 24th Pl. lots for two years for an urban gardening project with raised beds. The organization will now look to install a rain harvesting system.

“The goal is to continue developing the garden space and provide fresh food for the neighborhood and Milwaukee’s homeless population,” says a city report.

Read the full article

Baptist Church Buying MPS Building

A vacant Milwaukee Public Schools building would be acquired by a church for use as a school, bringing the building’s life full circle.

Milwaukee Public Schools acquired the 38,036-square-foot building at 3409 N. 37th St. in 1988 from St. John De Nepomuc Congregation and opened Frederick Douglass Elementary School to deal with growing enrollment in a pre-voucher environment.

Less than 20 years later, MPS gave up on the property. The district vacated the building by 2006 and in 2015 declared it surplus.

Read the full article

Hotels Fight City Hall, Win $500,000

The owners of two downtown hotels will receive $558,044.35 as part of a settlement regarding property tax assessments.

The Common Council’s Judiciary & Legislation Committee approved a settlement Monday with investment groups affiliated with Jackson Street Management, the developer of the Milwaukee Marriott Downtown, 625 N. Milwaukee St., and SpringHill Suites, 744 N. Vel R. Phillips Ave.

In pending lawsuits, the two investment groups were seeking a property tax refund of $2.4 million plus interest and costs. City Attorney Tearman Spencer recommended the settlement rather than fight the battle in court, noting the city could lose $3.2 million.

Read the full article

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