Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Bronzeville Project Could Be Creative Hub

Partnership envisions four-story, 54-apartment complex and three-story creative hub for entrepreneurs at 6th and North.

By - Apr 18th, 2022 02:21 pm
Bronzeville Creative Arts and Technology Hub. Rendering by Engberg Anderson Architects.

Bronzeville Creative Arts and Technology Hub. Rendering by Engberg Anderson Architects.

A city-owned site near the intersection of N. 6th St. and W. North Ave. could soon house an apartment building and creative hub for entrepreneurs.

A partnership of Michael Adetoro‘s FIT Investment Group and Cinnaire Solutions would develop a 54-unit, mixed-income apartment building and entrepreneurial workspace on a 1.1-acre site that fronts W. North Ave.

“We are proposing to create a creative space with amenities for creative entrepreneurs to operate their business,” said Adetoro on Monday at a meeting of the Bronzeville Advisory Committee. The committee, with the Department of City Development‘s support, is recommending the Common Council sell the site to the FIT-Cinnaire partnership. A July 2021 request for proposals, with a $300,000 asking price, drew three qualified respondents.

Adetoro’s proposal, known as the Bronzeville Creative Arts and Technology Hub, calls for rentable space for creative entrepreneurs as well as the support services they might need, including business mentorship and equipment. “You can basically leverage our infrastructure,” he said, describing a vision of assisting individuals working in music, fashion, technology or other entrepreneurial pursuits.

“My vision is for Bronzeville to be a center of excellence for creative entrepreneurship and technology,” he said. The 50,000-square-foot Bronzeville Center for the Arts is proposed for a site three blocks to the east and a series of city-owned, foreclosed homes are being redeveloped into houses for artists in the blocks to the north. An office building and small gallery space for the Bronzeville Center for the Arts is also proposed for a site just southeast of the FIT-Cinnaire site.

A three-story building would front W. North Ave. and be anchored by the creative hub. A four-story apartment building would be built behind it, running from N. 6th St. to N. 7th St. Engberg Anderson Architects is designing the building. According to the RFP response, 22,000 square feet of commercial space would be included in the buildings.

A cafe would be included at the southeastern corner of the FIT-Cinnaire development. Two-story, live-work units would be included in a separate building on the west side of the site. “So you can have artists that live upstairs and work downstairs,” said the developer. Describing potential tech-support-centric tenants, he said the development team would seek to find uses that activate the first floor during the day and in the evening.

Most of the parking would be covered. Adetoro said the development team is also working to acquire an adjacent building for use as a restaurant with short-term rentals for traveling creatives above.

“Our goal is really to redevelop the entire block,” he said.

Project partners include the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, Reginald Baylor Studios, The Space MKE and Beyond STEM. Adetoro said much remains to be sorted out, but the parties have all confirmed their interest in advancing the project.

“We are very excited to bring community voices into our proposal,” said Cinnaire development manager Elisabeth Rask.

She said the development would be built in phases, with the arts and technology hub being completed in spring 2024 and the apartments following the next year. The proposal’s financing is based on receiving both new market tax credits and low-income housing tax credits. The new market credits would support the development of the creative hub, with the housing tax credits used to finance the apartments on the condition that the vast majority of them are set aside at below-market rates for households with qualifying incomes. Income ranges for the set-aside units would range from 30% to 60% of the Milwaukee County median income. Rents in the entire complex would range from $384 to $1,800 per month, depending on the size, location and income restrictions on the unit.

The advisory committee scored a proposal from the Martin Luther King Economic Development Corporation and KG Development as the second-best proposal. The third-place proposal was from Horizon Group and Northernstar Companies.

“Well it’s tough to lose, said Northernstar’s Brandon Methu, adding that “I don’t think we could lose to a better project.”

Committee chair LaShawndra Vernon said not to think of it as a loss. “Bronzeville is not finished being developed,” she said. “Please be on the lookout for the next opportunities, because this is just one intersection.”

The site is made up of eight contiguous parcels on the north side of W. North Ave. between N. 6th St. and N. 7th St. The west side of the site overlooks Interstate 43, with access ramps at W. North Ave. The city acquired the site in phases through property tax foreclosure and almost all of it is now vacant land. A one-story, 2,100-square-foot building at 628-630 W. North Ave. is the lone structure on the eight sites, with the RFP including photos of the interior in significant disrepair. The development team would demolish the building.

A 2013 design charette for the area, led by UW-Milwaukee’s Community Design Solutions, included the site as one of six for which future use options were contemplated. Miller Architectural Group produced conceptual drawings of an apartment building facing W. North Ave. with parking in the rear. A large greenhouse, billed as a winter garden, was included on the eastern edge of the site and promoted as a place for future events and private rentals.

A 1.3-acre parcel along N. 7th St., just south of W. North Ave., was previously marketed for sale for an RFP. The city is expected to reissue a new RFP for the site.

The Common Council needs to approve the final sale.


Site Photos and Conceptual Renderings

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One thought on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Bronzeville Project Could Be Creative Hub”

  1. Polaris says:

    I was just gonna say, Bronzeville sure is attracting a number of great looking projects. Sounds like they’re also well thought out, too.

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