Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Four-Story Riverwest Apartments Okayed By Plan Commission

Development team hopes to open 91-unit building, food accelerator in summer 2023.

By - Apr 4th, 2022 07:46 pm
Riverwest Workforce Apartments and Food Accelerator. Rendering by Engberg Anderson Architects.

Riverwest Workforce Apartments and Food Accelerator. Rendering by Engberg Anderson Architects.

A proposal to develop a new affordable apartment complex and shared commercial kitchen on E. North Ave. received a unanimous thumbs-up Monday afternoon.

The City Plan Commission recommended approval of a zoning change to enable a partnership of KG Development and General Capital Group to develop the four-story, 91-unit apartment building.

Planned for a vacant site just west of the Milwaukee River, the building would include the “Riverwest Food Accelerator.” The 2,500-square-foot space would be the “cornerstone” of the project said the development team. It would include a full commercial kitchen, configured for use for cooking classes, startup businesses or residents. “Really importantly, we are not seeking to duplicate anyone’s efforts,” said General Capital partner Sig Strautmanis. An operating partner is still being sought. “It really is an exciting concept that is still evolving.”

And while the food accelerator may be the cornerstone of the project overlooking E. North Ave. and N. Commerce St., the heart of the proposal is to create affordable housing: 77 apartments set aside at below-market rates. The partners won a city-issued request for proposals to buy the site in 2020 and secured low-income housing tax credits to fund the project in 2021. Units would have a mix of one, two and three bedroom layouts. Through the tax credit program, units would have rents structured not to exceed 30% of household incomes. Specific units would be set aside for those making less than 30%, 40%, 50% and 60% of the Milwaukee County median income with rental prices ranging from $418 to $1,024 per month. Fourteen of the units would be rented at market rates, targeted at $1,200 for a one-bedroom apartment and $2,400 for a two-bedroom apartment.

Nineteen of the 77 affordable units would be set aside for those with permanent developmental, physical, sensory, medical, or mental health disabilities. Residents would be connected with supportive services through an agreement with the Milwaukee County Aging and Disability Resource Center and Milwaukee County Veterans’ Service Office.

“We are trying to reach the full spectrum,” said Strautmanis of the various income levels.

The development team thinks future residents are already living nearby. “The majority of residents that live in our projects come from the surrounding neighborhoods,” said the developer. He said they see the project under construction and are drawn to apply.

The project is also the fourth to be subject to the 2019 anti-displacement policy which requires that 20% of any affordable units in any development in targeted ZIP codes that receive city financial assistance be set aside for at least 30 days for priority leasing by neighborhood residents. Via a state allocation of federal funds, the city is providing $1 million towards the $24.7 million project.

KG Development’s Anthony Kazee said construction was expected to begin in July, with the first units ready for occupants next May.

Engberg Anderson Architects is leading the building’s design. Catalyst Construction would serve as the general contractor. TEAM Management will serve as the project manager. Kazee told the plan commission he would work to ensure emerging subcontractors are given the chance to work on the project.

“I think this is an exciting project,” said area Alderman Nik Kovac, who hosted a neighborhood meeting last month about the development. “Overwhelming support for the project at the meeting.”

He said most resident questions were about pedestrian safety on North Avenue. “We did some good work on the bridge, but that work needs to extend in both directions,” said the alderman of the 2018 installation of protected bike lanes.

The new building would be across N. Commerce St. from the UW-Milwaukee RiverView Hall residence complex. Access to a 58-space, underground parking structure would be included on that dead-end street. Access to a 37-space surface parking at the rear of the L-shaped building would be from E. North Ave. A number of first-floor units, many of which would be three-bedroom apartments, would have their own exterior doors.

Future development of a lot to the northeast could allow direct access to the Beerline Trail.

Potential partners for the food accelerator include the Riverwest Food Pantry, Teens Grow Greens, Milwaukee Area Technical College and the MKE Food School. Strautmanis said the kitchen will not charge rent, but would include a cleaning fee. The property management team would program the kitchen for tenants if no third-party partner can be found.

Under an already approved land sale, the development team would pay $750,000 for the 1.34-acre city-owned parcel, 1136-1146 E. North Ave., at the center of the site. A triangular parcel, 1164 E. North Ave., located to the east and a small lot to the west, 1132 E. North Ave., would be purchased from ReadCo to form the rest of the site. In 2012 developer Todd Davies proposed a 122-unit, five-story building on the site. Davies secured a zoning change but never moved forward to construction.

The plan commission unanimously recommended approval of the zoning change. The Common Council must still approve the rezoning request.


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