THIRTEEN31 Apartment Building Opens
Walker's Point complex has 74 affordable apartments, all already full.
The new, $17.8 million THIRTEEN31 Place apartment building at 1331 W. National Ave in Walker’s Point is a testament to the overwhelming demand for affordable housing in Milwaukee. All 74 of its affordable units, set aside at below-market rates through the low-income housing tax credit program, are leased two weeks after the building opened.
Many in this case also have a lifelong connection to Milwaukee’s South Side.
That starts with developer Brandon Rule, who grew up just west of the project site in the Clarke Square neighborhood. Rule Enterprises‘ first two projects were on W. National Ave., SEVEN04 Place at 704 W. National Ave. and now THIRTEEN31.
“This represents much more than housing,” said Rule of his connection to the area and the opportunity he hopes to create for others. He was joined by the project team for a ribbon cutting Tuesday afternoon.
Joaquín Altoro, CEO of the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, first lived nearby at S. 17th St. and W. National Ave. WHEDA provided low-income housing tax credits that provide the bulk of the equity needed to develop the building. He’s also a graduate of the ACRE program.
Lutheran Social Services, led by Héctor Colón, is Rule’s co-developer on the project. The nonprofit organization will manage the property, including offering a service coordinator whose role is to assist residents with financial literacy, developing job skills, assist with benefit questions and fostering community relationships.
“We are here to say ‘what’s the next project?’ We want to help other up-and-coming developers,” said Colon in between jokes about growing up in the neighborhood with Altoro.
Alderman Jose G. Perez is also an ACRE graduate and, among all of the speakers, grew up closest to the development at W. Walker St. and S. 10th St.
He said the city had received other offers for the site, which was a tax delinquent brownfield site last used by Esperanza Unida. But he said he and others weren’t excited about an automobile repair business. “We said we were going to wait for a proposal that reflects this community and a developer that was invested in this community,” said the alderman. He invited Rule to do more development in his district.
Department of City Development Commissioner Lafayette Crump didn’t grow up on the South Side, but is an ACRE graduate and has known Rule for many years through their involvement in the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
Rule’s owner’s representative on the project, Michael Emem, is also a graduate of the ACRE program.
The project is the first on the South Side to be part of the city’s new anti-displacement program that reserves 20% of the units for existing residents of the area. The city provided a grant from its allocation of HOME funds to close a financing gap in the project.
A series of other partners helped bring the development to fruition.
The Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago’s affordable housing program provided a $900,000 grant. The program is funded with 10% of the bank’s annual earnings, with Altoro and Crump serving on its advisory council. Leo Ries, the former LISC director who was in attendance at the event, and ACRE program founder Mark Eppli, now a UW-Madison professor, serve on the bank’s board.
WNC purchased the tax credits to create the cash necessary to advance the project. US Bank provided a construction loan. Cinnaire Solutions also helped assemble the financing package. Arc-Int Architecture designed the building. Catalyst Construction built it.
“It takes a village,” said WNC vice president Michael Byrd.
The 74 affordable apartments are set aside for state-certified individuals making no more than 60% of the area’s median income. Rents, under the tax credit program, are capped at 30% of the income threshold. The lowest rent offered in the building is $380 per month.
All of the units include in-unit laundry and free wireless internet access. A large community room, reservable by tenants, and fitness center are included on the first floor.
What’s next for Rule? He’s got plenty of things in the pipeline. Earlier this year he secured approval to build a new affordable housing development on the Lower East Side. He also held a groundbreaking Monday on a new project in Madison.