Graham Kilmer

County Offers $500,000 For Affordable Housing Project

South Milwaukee project is first time county block grant funds ever used for this.

By - Aug 30th, 2022 10:48 am
HThree office buildings will be redeveloped as part of this project. This is the Heritage building with improvements. Image from Continuum Architects + Planners, S.C.

Three office buildings will be redeveloped as part of this project. This is the Heritage building with improvements. Image from Continuum Architects + Planners, S.C.

Milwaukee County is moving to assist a redevelopment project in South Milwaukee that would include more than 60 units of affordable housing.

Milwaukee-based developer Que El-Amin‘s company Scott Crawford Inc. has been working to advance a mixed-use redevelopment of three office buildings on the former Bucyrus campus, 1100 Milwaukee Ave. in South Milwaukee, into 160 apartments and loft-style units, including 67 affordable housing units. The project appeared to fall apart earlier this year when it was reported that the property owners, industrial real estate firm Reich Brothers, would not move forward with a sale.

Campus site plan. Image from Continuum Architects + Planners, S.C.

Campus site plan. Image from Continuum Architects + Planners, S.C.

Now, the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is looking to provide $500,000 in federal funds to the project. The money comes from the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. The COVID-19 pandemic and “supply chain issues” have led to a surplus of CDBG funds, much of it in the department’s home repair program, and “Funds need to be reallocated by October 2022 for projects that are ‘shovel ready’ per HUD guidelines,” the department said in a recent report. Existing CDBG grantees were notified of the surplus funding.

Eligible projects included those “that could submit invoices for work prior to October.” These funds, once approved, would be used for the purchase of the site, according to DHHS. Reich Brothers is still advertising the site for sale.

El-Amin could not be reached for comment prior to publishing.

The Bucyrus project would be the first time the county has used CDBG funds to support development of multi-family affordable housing, according to DHHS. The report also notes that El-Amin’s Scott Crawford Inc. has pledged that the project will pay a “prevailing wage” for construction work on the project. This is in line with the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931 which requires a prevailing wage be paid when a construction project has federal financing.

The Bucyrus Steam Shovel and Dredge Company was incorporated in 1893 after moving from Bucyrus, Ohio to South Milwaukee. It was the largest employer in the city for more than 100 years, according to the city. Caterpillar bought the company in 2011 and shut down manufacturing operations at the main plant in 2016.

The development proposal for 5,800 square feet of former office space used by the company also included plans to incorporate commercial space, intended for a potential restaurant or microbrewery, according to a South Milwaukee Plan Commission application filed in January. Outside of the office buildings, plans called for creating a “transit friendly location with two art alleys, a dog park, increased greenspace and permeable pavement.”

Along with half a million for the affordable housing in South Milwaukee, DHHS will also seek authorization from the Milwaukee County Board in September to provide CDBG funds to six other projects: $18,000 to the Village of West Milwaukee for a community center wall replacement project; $50,000 to the Village of Greendale for ADA sidewalks and curbs; $40,000 for the City of St. Francis to cover costs related to code enforcement; $75,000 for the nonprofit Hunger Task Force to replace a water pump and $335,000 for accessibility improvements to the group’s new warehouse in West Milwaukee.

Update: This story has been updated to reflect that $18,000 in CDBG funds are being given to the Village of West Milwaukee, not $18 million. 

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