Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Concordia 27 Will Offer Housing, Meals, Education

NWSP, State, Wiegand to redevelop N. 27th St. building, create west side community hub.

By - May 11th, 2022 09:40 am
801 and 817-831 N. 27th St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

801 and 817-831 N. 27th St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

A “comprehensive community hub” is intended to catalyze further development on Milwaukee’s Near West Side. Known as Concordia 27, the $16 million project calls for redeveloping a vacant four-story, 97-year-old building at the corner of N. 27th St. and W. Wells St.

The completed redevelopment will include 30 apartments for seniors and low-income families on its upper floors, a two-story clinic for a trauma-informed training provider, a large commercial kitchen for training area residents, workspace for creative professionals and a new headquarters for a nonprofit organization focused on improving the neighborhood.

“This development is the culmination of years of community planning,” said Near West Side Partners (NWSP) Executive Director Keith Stanley at a press conference Wednesday morning.

Governor Tony Evers announced at the event that the state would contribute $5 million from its American Rescue Plan Act allocation to back the project, 801-813 N. 27th St.

“By serving as a centralized hub of collaboration, innovation, and service, Concordia 27 is both uplifting the local business community and increasing the level of services available to individuals throughout the Near West Side and beyond. This is exactly what we mean when we talk about connecting the dots, and I look forward to seeing the positive impact Concordia 27 will have for the nearly 40,000 residents that call the Near West Side their home,” said Evers.

Milwaukee Center for Independence will operate two commercial kitchens spanning 12,000-square-feet in the building. The organization will operate a commercial demonstration kitchen in the building that will be used to provide job training for individuals with intellectual disabilities and those previously incarcerated. A larger production kitchen will augment the nonprofit’s work of preparing school lunches for Milwaukee Public Schools and other area districts. Vice president Heidi Chada said the facility would be used to provide 23,000 school lunches per day and 1,000 healthy meals for area residents.

Scaling Wellness in Milwaukee (SWIM) will occupy approximately 8,000 square feet of space spread over two floors. The organization, led by executive director Eugene Manzanet, seeks to build a trauma-responsive community that heals trauma and promotes resiliency. Its model calls for “training the trainers” to both process their own trauma and respond to the trauma of others. It will offer a special program for first responders. Manzanet said the need is especially urgent because of the fallout from the pandemic. The organization, practicing a model developed by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, will offer both dry and wet therapy.

Entrepreneur Rachaad Howard will also open Fruition MKE, a co-working space, in the building. “We want to bring all of the creatives in the inner-city together,” said Howard in an interview. Fruition will include a makerspace as well as office space.

NWSP, currently based out of an office on N. 24th St., will also relocate to the building. Formed by Advocate Aurora HealthHarley-Davidson, Marquette University, Molson Coors and the Potawatomi Business Development Corporation, the organization is focused on improving the area. The NWSP space will occupy the corner of the building overlooking the intersection of N. 27th St. and W. Wells St. It will include a workspace for employees, a podcast studio and a boardroom available for community meetings.

Stanley credits the vision for the hub and mix of uses to a 2015 design charette for the neighborhood and a 2021 summit hosted by Harley-Davidson’s foundation. He said the project was driven by residents and is focused on addressing six inequities: housing insecurity, health disparities, trauma, food insecurity, unemployment and transportation access.

Harley CEO Jochen Zeitz said it was clear to him upon becoming the motorcycle company’s leader in 2020 that the company needed to invest in its home. Potawatomi tribe chairman Ned Daniels Jr. said his organization was committed to Milwaukee and improving the neighborhood.

Key to the effort is Rick Wiegand, who owns a number of properties in the neighborhood beyond the Concordia 27 building.

“Rick has had a vision for how we can develop 27th Street and make our community better,” said Marquette President Mike Lovell. He praised Wiegand for his “tireless” dedication to the area.

Wiegand bought the Concordia property in 2015 and inherited what he said was a porn shop, drug paraphilia store and predatory grocery store. “We had to go backward to go forward,” said Wiegand in an interview. The tenants were removed. “Now it’s a matter of moving forward.”

In 2020, an urban farm proposed to use much of the building’s first floor, but ultimately located in Century City.

In April, Wiegand secured federal housing vouchers for 25 of the 30 apartment units from the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee (HACM). The vouchers, which will be assigned to specific units, cover approximately 70% of a qualifying tenant’s rent. HACM awarded vouchers to seven buildings in the neighborhood.

Wiegand said he wasn’t sure exactly how the vouchers would be used, but they do support financing the overall project.

In addition to the state contribution, he’s raised $5 million for the development. Working with Donna Weiss of Preserve, LLC, he’s also secured historic preservation tax credits to support a portion of the redevelopment.

“Additional funding is needed,” said Stanley repeatedly to end the press conference.

Quorum Architects is leading the project’s design. The complex is actually two interconnected buildings, the four-story Cecila Building at the corner as well as a similarly-styled, two-story annex building to the north at 817-831 N. 27th St. A one-story garage, the future kitchen site, is attached to the rear of the annex. A sizable surface parking lot is located at the southwest corner of the property.

Firm principal Allyson Nemec led a tour of the complex’s first floor before the press conference, highlighting how the various components would fit together and share back-of-the-house space. Quorum has been working on the project since January, an indication that the project is quickly proceeding.

Wiegand meanwhile is moving slowly, for now, on his other nearby projects. Across the street, he is redeveloping the Milwaukee County City Campus, 2711 W. Wells St., into a mix of uses and recently secured housing vouchers for that project. But he said he’s focused on the Concordia 27 project currently, interior demolition work has been ongoing for more than a year.

The developer is also working to repurpose the former Wisconsin Avenue School, 2708 W. Wisconsin Ave., into the Grand Avenue Suites extended-stay hotel. But he said given the pandemic-related challenges the hotel industry is facing, including his Ambassador Hotel, he’s placed the new hotel “on hold.”

Area Alderman Robert Bauman and State Representative Evan Goyke were also present at the event. “If you ever need someone to press you to keep thinking, it’s Alderman Bauman,” said Stanley.

Bauman has publicly challenged NWSP’s plans and the nature of the city’s support for the proposed state office building at N. 27th St. and W. Wisconsin Ave. Evers proposed funding to advance the project in the latest state budget, but it was stripped by the Republican-controlled Legislature.




Press Conference

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