Jeramey Jannene

TIF Could Fund Traffic Calming, Affordable Housing Near Downtown

City proposing $6.5 million for traffic calming, anti-displacement housing efforts in area north of Fiserv Forum.

By - Jul 8th, 2022 06:52 pm
Traffic calming improvements proposed as part of TIF District 41. Image from DCD.

Traffic calming improvements proposed as part of TIF District 41. Image from DCD.

The Department of City Development is proposing to use excess revenue from an overperforming tax incremental financing (TIF) district to fund traffic calming measures in an area just north of Downtown.

The various improvements planned include installing speed humps and curb bump-outs, a traffic circle and high-visibility crosswalks. A number of streets would be subject to high-impact paving, a strategy of replacing the top layer of asphalt that is designed to extend a street’s life by 10 to 15 years. Sidewalks would also be improved in certain locations.

The improvements would be in an area roughly bounded by W. North Ave., W. Highland Ave., the Milwaukee River and Interstate 43 that includes the Brewers Hill, Hillside, Deer District, Westown and Halyard Park neighborhoods. The different elements would work together with the “intent to calm traffic within the neighborhood and provide a safer environment for pedestrians,” says a city report.

A total of $5.5 million in incremental revenue would be leveraged from a TIF district originally used to subsidize the redevelopment of a former We Energies power plant into a home for Spectrum and ManpowerGroup‘s relocation to downtown Milwaukee. State law allows for overperforming districts to be amended to fund street improvements within a half mile of their borders until a district reaches its maximum life of 27 years.

“This [TIF district] is performing quite well,” said DCD project manager Alyssa Remington in presenting the plan to the Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee on Wednesday. It is generating $3.3 million in incremental property tax revenue per year, and is worth $131 million more than when it was created.

The city would work with the King Drive Business Improvement District to coordinate the improvements’ installation. That could include requiring cost-sharing on speed humps, DCD representatives said.

In addition to the traffic calming measures, $1 million would be set aside for affordable housing projects consistent with an anti-displacement plan created by the nonprofit MKE United. That includes expanding homeownership and funding new affordable housing developments. Between 2017 and 2022, single-family and duplex homes within a half-mile of the TIF district increased in assessed value by 44%.

The city developed the anti-displacement plan with the Greater Milwaukee Committee, Greater Milwaukee Foundation and others, but state law prevents the city from directly participating in the organization’s tax payment program that makes incremental payments for low-income, long-time homeowners experiencing rising property values.

The city is on the clock to get the traffic calming improvements in place. Under state law, contracts must be signed by Sep. 1 or else the district would close and the incremental revenue would be returned to the underlying property taxing entities.

The affordable housing money would not be subject to a signed-contract requirement, but would need to be placed in an escrow account. “We still have to work out the details of it,” said DCD housing specialist Maria Prioletta of how the money would be used.

The district was previously amended in 2016 to allocate $8 million toward extending the streetcar north to what became Fiserv Forum. That plan has yet to move forward, and, as then-DCD Commissioner Rocky Marcoux warned in 2019, the district will be unable to be used for that purpose given state law requiring it to close.

Under the latest plan, subject to council approval, the district would be closed following the 2027 budget year. It has already paid off all of its existing debt.

Earlier this year, DCD and the council also agreed to use $8.5 million from TIF districts near the end of their life for reckless driving abatement. Newly-elected mayor Cavalier Johnson has made combatting reckless driving his signature issue.

Two more TIF districts, according to DCD representatives, are expected to be soon amended for street improvements or affordable housing. That includes a district around S. 27th St. and W. Howard Ave. and a district used to subsidize Hellermann Tyton‘s expansion at 6701 W. Good Hope Rd.

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Related Legislation: File 220305

Categories: Real Estate, Weekly

One thought on “TIF Could Fund Traffic Calming, Affordable Housing Near Downtown”

  1. Polaris says:

    Wow…sounds like a really forward-thinking plan! (And, it’s anticipated by State law…)

    Two things:

    — It’ll be interesting to learn what is meant by green-diamond “projects” and blue-striped “various street amenities.”

    — I wonder if what MKE United has planned re: anti-displacement will work. We’ve seen time after time how gentrification and commercial development pushes out long-time residents and small businesses. I see it was commissioned by the GMC.

    Oh, and third:

    — I love that the MKE United website map refers not to East Town and West Town, but to Juneau Town and Kilbourn Town, which is as it should be. ;-). Sooner or later, everyone will catch on. And, spell Kilbourntown as one word, which is also as it should be… ;-).

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