Jeramey Jannene
Plats and Parcels

City Seeks Buyer For Historic Mansion

1856 Italianate mansion on S. 27th St. has quite a history. Plus: all the week's real estate news.

By - Sep 18th, 2022 05:11 pm
Wildenberg Hotel, 3774 S. 27th St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Wildenberg Hotel, 3774 S. 27th St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Department of City Development (DCD) hopes to find a new owner for an Italianate-style mansion on Milwaukee’s South Side.

But ending the description there stops far short of giving a complete picture of real estate speculator and distiller Jacob Nunnemacher‘s one-time country estate that’s also been used as a bar, hotel and anchor building for a trailer park.

The two-story, Cream-City-brick structure was constructed in 1856, several decades before anyone considered that S. 27th St. would become a busy commercial corridor in the city. As the street has evolved, so has the use of the structure.

It grew to an approximately 1,000-acre parcel, with the 4,381-square-foot house, a farm and Nunnemacher’s Kinnickinnic Distillery complex. But Nunnemacher was one of many distillers who had their property seized in the nationwide Whiskey Ring taxation scandal. He did several weeks in jail before being pardoned by President Ulysses S. Grant.

After Nunnemacher died in 1876, the property passed through a number of families including the Trimborns and Vogels. By the 1880s, the property had dwindles to 120 acres and began to be divided. By 1932 it featured a “tourist camp,” a precursor to the motel and a reflection that S. 27th St. (Highway 41) was becoming a well-traveled route between Chicago and Green Bay. The camp included many cabins and a central bar in the house.

Come 1954, Edward Wildenberg acquired the property, 3774 S. 27th St., and swapped the cabins for mobile home trailers. The house (“The Evergreen”) was maintained as a bar and hotel rooms were added.

The Wildenberg family would own and operate the 1.86-acre property until losing it in property tax foreclosure in 2013. The family was five years behind on making tax payments. The city removed the remaining trailers and residents in 2014 after the family was unable to find financing to pay the back taxes and reacquire the property. The city designated the house as a historic structure that same year.

The city is now offering the property for $200,000 via a request-for-proposals (RFP) process. The new owner would be required to restore the house, but could construct new buildings on other portions of the property.

DCD is listing the property after two attempts by Que El-Amin to redevelop the property into affordable housing failed to secure financing. El-Amin’s business, Scott Crawford Inc., won a 2018 RFP to purchase the site. The original plan was to partner with Brinshore Development on a three-story apartment building, 22 townhomes and home restoration. A 2020 proposal from El-Amin to partner with Cardinal Capital Management to construct 67 units of housing on the site didn’t win competitively-awarded low-income housing tax credits.

In 2018, when El-Amin’s original proposal was being reviewed, DCD real estate services manager Amy Turim said it was “a very challenging site to redevelop.”

The house currently sits between a strip mall and a one-story office building. The concrete-channeled Wilson Park Creek forms the eastern border of the site, but plans call for it to eventually be naturalized. A portion of the rear of the site is the fringe of the Kinnickinnic River 100-year flood plain. It could be developed, but any structures would need to be elevated or otherwise accommodate flooding.

Interested? The city has seven open houses scheduled, starting Sept. 26 at 9 a.m.

RFP responses are due Dec. 28 at noon. A copy of the RFP is available on Urban Milwaukee.


Weekly Recap

McKinley School Saved From The Brink

Virtually every old building in Milwaukee could use a little TLC at some point. And then there’s the William McKinley School, 2001 W. Vliet St.

“I would say this building is probably the worst building we have tackled in terms of its condition,” said Gorman & Company’s Ted Matkom in August 2020. His firm has redeveloped a number of former schools and city-owned homes.

“This building is almost the quintessential definition of blight,” said area Alderman Robert Bauman in November 2018.

The Department of Neighborhood Services called it the worst building they’ve ever seen.

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Elmer Moore Jr. Hits the Ground Running At WHEDA

Elmer Moore Jr. says he has the best of everything in his new role as the CEO of the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, or WHEDA.

WHEDA is a state agency that works to provide  affordable housing and improve the quality of life of Wisconsinites.

Moore, 44, was appointed by Gov. Tony Evers in March and has been spending his days since gaining a clear understanding of his job.

“My primary job right now is learning,” Moore said. “This role includes a lot, like I’m a part of the governor’s cabinet.”

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City Expands Vision For Harbor District Riverwalk

The City of Milwaukee’s vision for its largest ever expansion of the riverwalk system is getting more elaborate, and expensive.

As part of Komatsu Mining‘s South Harbor Campus development between E. Greenfield Ave. and S. Kinnickinnic Ave., a 4,300-foot riverwalk extension is being planned that would allow visitors to literally touch the water, find a rare public restroom or take in a concert.

The board of the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee approved $3.1 million in cost increases Thursday related to the now $14.5 million project that would allow designer SmithGroup to move forward with plans to add a bathroom structure, extend utility infrastructure, construct “The Node” as an accessible landscape where visitors can touch the water, fully design a bridge that honors the historic residents of Jones Island and deal with a number of engineering and permitting issues related to the dockwall on the site.

The changes, said Department of City Development riverwalk project manager Alyssa Remington, are being driven by feedback from community members and project stakeholders that came after the initial contract was signed in early 2021. The project is being financed via a tax incremental financing district that captures the increased property tax revenue from the $285 million Komatsu development.

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Affordable Apartment Project Near Downtown Gets Three-Month Extension

Haywood Group is being given an additional three months to assemble financing for the second phase of its City Place development located just north of Deer District and Westown. It’s just the latest extension for one of several affordable housing developments in the city that have struggled to close financing gaps.

Haywood and Thirty Six Blocks are pursuing a four-story, 38-unit apartment building at the intersection of N. 6th St. and W. Walnut St. City Place Two would include 32 two-bedroom units set aside at below-market rates for individuals making less than 60% of the area median income and six three-bedroom townhomes available at market rates.

The 18,152-square-foot parcel, 1728 N. 6th St., is owned by the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee (RACM). On Thursday, the authority’s board granted the development team a three-month extension to close on the $20,000 purchase, extending the deadline to the end of the year.

“As you may have heard with many other projects across the city with tax credits and other sources there have been delays in getting the whole funding stream organized,” said Department of City Development real estate specialist Yves LaPierre in briefing the board.

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Third Ward Attracts Top 3D Printer Manufacturer

One of the leading designers and manufacturers of 3D printers opened a regional headquarters in Milwaukee this week.

Formlabs, headquartered in a suburb of Boston, has opened a Midwest regional office in the Historic Third Ward. Backed by $675,000 in income tax credits from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the company hopes to add more than 100 jobs in its Milwaukee office. It reports a current international roster of more than 800 employees. Formlabs raised $150 million from investment firm SoftBank in 2021, giving it a $2 billion valuation.

The company, in a statement, said it selected Milwaukee because of its history of advanced manufacturing and pool of available engineering and business workers.

“Simply put, Formlabs makes hardware to empower anyone to make anything, so we are thrilled to build a team in the original ‘Machine Shop of the World,’” said Luke Winston, Chief Business Officer at Formlabs, in a statement. “Milwaukee has a deep talent pool of sales and service experts, engineers and other professionals we want on our team, and the region is home to many of our current and future customers.”

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$7.5 Million Grant Will Help Create 5,000 New Minority Homeowners

A coalition of groups working to reduce racial disparities in homeownership in Milwaukee received a major boost Wednesday when Wells Fargo awarded a $7.5 million grant to back the generational effort.

The Community Development Alliance, a newly-formed organization focused on addressing Milwaukee’s housing issues, is allocating $2 million of the grant to Acts Housing‘s new acquisition fund. The fund is intended to preserve or create affordable housing by purchasing batches of properties and reselling homes to targeted owner-occupants instead of watching out-of-state investors build local portfolios.

The fund was one of several strategies identified in CDA’s initial planning and analysis effort, which was also backed in part by Wells Fargo. The study found the need to create 32,000 new Black and Latino homeowners over 30 years to address racial disparities.

”That plan has over 20 strategies in it but we’ve all know that you can’t do 20 things at once,” said CDA head Teig Whaley-Smith at an event announcing the grant.

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City Wins Grant To Develop Site Beneath Marquette Interchange

A federal grant will help unlock the potential development of an effectively hidden 15-acre site in the Menomonee Valley.

The City of Milwaukee was selected as the winner of a $3.2 million U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant. The funding will be used to prepare the riverfront site for future industrial development, including the construction of an eastward extension of W. Mt. Vernon Ave. and the installation of sewer and water service lines.

Known as the Kneeland Properties, the site sits between the Canadian Pacific railroad line and Menomonee River, and below the Interstate 94 High-Rise Bridge leading to the Marquette Interchange. A conceptual plan envisions space for three buildings, with a parking lot under the part covered by the freeway. It was identified as a catalytic site in both the 2008 and 2015 Menomonee Valley plans and is one of the largest remaining sites in the valley.

“For years, the Menomonee Valley has witnessed new industrial development and robust economic growth. The Kneeland Properties site is one of the remaining parcels in the Valley that will boost this positive momentum. New investment at the Kneeland Properties site will create manufacturing jobs for local residents that will generate economic growth in our city, our state, and our region,” said Mayor Cavalier Johnson in a statement announcing the grant awarded.

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Famed Art Museum Architect Returns For 20th Anniversary

Spanish architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava returned to Milwaukee Wednesday to revisit his first U.S. building.

Calatrava, 71, is the famed architect behind the the 2001 expansion of the Milwaukee Art Museum known as the Quadracci Pavilion. The building he designed is better known locally as simply “the Calatrava.”

The white, lakefront building, with movable wings like a bird, has become a symbol of the city. It is used as VISIT Milwaukee‘s logo and is commonly featured in the center of skyline images of the city. A campaign has received more than 10,000 votes to make a LEGO kit of the structure, and it was used as a filming location for Transformers 3.

“Entering the museum, it was for me like the opening day,” said Calatrava at a ceremony to mark the building’s 20th anniversary. “It’s so well preserved.” He told the audience gathered in the building’s auditorium that he remembers working on every curve, every small detail. And there are many, as the architect’s designs make heavy use of rounded metal and concrete.

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City Building New Street in Third Ward

A tricky-to-pronounce Historic Third Ward street is to get a block longer under a proposal pending before the Common Council.

The city would extend E. Corcoran Avenue one block east to N. Harbor Dr. The proposal would still leave the street as one of the shortest in the city at three blocks, but extend the street grid of the Third Ward east to Henry Maier Festival Park. The city is to expend $3.56 million on the project, which includes bicycle improvements on the existing street as well as improving another nearby roadway, using funds from an overperforming tax incremental financing district.

The street extension is an idea that can be traced back to a 1986 Third Ward plan, but it’s become a pressing issue now that a developer is proposing to build an apartment complex on an adjoining site.

Kaeding Development Group is pursuing the construction of a 258-unit, six-story apartment building on a mostly-vacant lot just east of N. Jackson St. and the Milwaukee Ballet‘s Baumgartner Center for Dance. The new street will form the northern border of Kaeding’s building and host its front door. It will also cause the intersection of N. Jackson St. and E. Corcoran Ave. to become a T-intersection with crosswalks and sidewalks instead of a curved road on the urban fringe.

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Inside Dohmen Company’s King Dr. Facility

The Dohmen Company Foundation’s transition to its new Bronzeville headquarters is nearly complete. Come October, the company will invite the public to view the new facilities, comprising two buildings that will house administrative offices, community programming space and commercial kitchens for the company.

The Milwaukee-based company has offices in the Historic Third Ward and a food-preparation facility in Chicago, both of which will begin to wind down in the coming months.

“We knew that we wanted to colocate within the community that we were going to be serving,” said Kathy Koshgarian, president and chief operating officer at Dohmen. “And this is the perfect location just given the vibrancy and the focus relative to multiple like-minded organizations coming together in the M.L.K. corridor — essentially to support community programming and services.”

Formerly in the pharmaceutical business, the 160-year-old company transitioned to a preventative approach to healthcare in 2019. The company’s business model shifted along with its philosophy. Under the Philanthropic Enterprise Act of 2018, Dohmen transitioned from a for-profit corporation to a philanthropic enterprise after selling off its life science services division, Urban Milwaukee previously reported. The charitable foundation is now the sole owner of the Dohmen Company and its for-profit subsidiaries, with 100% of profit funneled to charity, assuring a self-sustaining cycle.

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Supervisors Demand A Domes Plan

A Milwaukee County Board committee gave the first approval for a plan to pursue listing the Mitchell Park Domes on the National Register of Historic Places.

Listing on the national register is an honorific designation; it will not result in any legal protections or mandates. But it would open up the possibility of the county accessing historic tax credits for a future domes preservation project.

After a lengthy discussion at the board’s Committee on Parks and Culture Tuesday about historic preservation and the future of the domes, one thing agreed upon by all parties was that it’s high-time the county actually develops a comprehensive plan for the domes.

Sup. Juan Miguel Martinez, authored the resolution which calls on the county to pursue historic designation. He introduced an amendment at committee adding language to the resolution that states Milwaukee County Parks shall “continue to explore additional actions intended to protect and invest in the long-term prosperity of Mitchell Park.”

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Committee Approves East Side Apartment Project Despite Complaints

After nearly three hours of debate, a zoning change to enable a new apartment building on a vacant lot near Downer Avenue was given a unanimous endorsement by the Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee.

It was the final of three public hearings the 55-unit building was expected to face. The full Common Council is expected to review the project on Sept. 20, but without public comment. A lawsuit by project opponents has already been filed and dropped.

Developer Michael DeMichele is proposing the building as part of a multi-faceted project with the neighboring St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. DeMichele would purchase the lot from the church in exchange for replacing a 1940s addition to the 111-year-old church, 2604-2644 N. Hackett Ave.

A zoning change is necessary to enable that number of units, but not the height or size of the four-story building.

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Milwaukee Aims ‘Howitzer’ At Lawsuit

The City of Milwaukee is poised to spend $125,000 on outside counsel to defend itself against a federal lawsuit that accuses the city of creating near-lawless “containment zones” by misappropriating federal funding to concentrate poverty and create “second-class citizens” The suit is being brought by two real estate agents that own property on the city’s near west side, which they argue is subject to such a policy.

Calling it a “bogus lawsuit,” area Alderman Robert Bauman said Monday that the city’s strategy is “literally getting out a howitzer to kill a fly.” The city would hire former U.S. Attorney Matthew D. Krueger, now at Foley & Lardner, to defend itself.

The stakes on the case at one point seemed much more significant, as the U.S. Department of Justice was originally a plaintiff. The council, with virtually no comment on the record, called a special meeting in July to consider spending $250,000 to defend the city against a sealed complaint, then canceled the meeting as the DOJ backed off.

The lawsuit is now being brought forward by James Dieter and Karen Schwenke. The former lives in a historic mansion on W. Kilbourn Ave. in the alleged zone, while the latter is a Shorewood resident who owns three rental properties on N. 23rd St.

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Task Force Okays $2.5 Million for Homeownership

Milwaukee County could invest more than $2 million in a new program run by a local housing non-profit aimed at helping low-to-moderate income (LMI) residents purchase homes in the city before out-of-state investors can snap them up.

On Thursday, a task force reviewing project proposals for the county’s $183 million allocation of federal COVID-19 stimulus funding unanimously recommended providing $2.6 million to the Acts Housing Homeownership Acquisition Fund, which will attempt to stem the tide of homes being sold to out-of-state investors buying up single-family housing stock and increase homeownership rates for Black and Latino families in Milwaukee.

The initiative was announced in August with a goal of raising $11 million in government and nonprofit funding for a revolving loan fund to purchase homes and then sell them to LMI homebuyers. The plan is to use $10 million for the funds, and $1 million for operational expenses.

“Annually, there are hundreds of families with LMIs that have graduated from the Acts Housing homebuyer education program. They’re financially prepared and approved for homeownership, but they’re missing out on the most affordable homes,” said Acts Housing president and CEO Michael Gosman when the program was announced. “That is because predatory, out-of-state investors have purchased massive quantities of single-family homes to use as long-term and often poorly maintained rentals.”

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66 Developers Bid To Rehab City’s Vacant Homes

Milwaukee’s $15 million proposal to renovate 150 vacant, city-owned homes is moving forward.

On Monday, the Department of City Development (DCD) announced the development teams, a mix of nonprofit and for-profit developers, that will participate in the first round of the Homes MKE initiative. The participants were selected from a request-for-proposals (RFP) process that generated a tremendous response.

The city will sell the houses for as little as $1, provide a development subsidy estimated at $75,000 based on the renovation cost estimates and grant a $5,000 workforce subsidy. After renovation, the properties may be sold to owner-occupants, rented out or placed into a rent-to-own program.

The program is designed to create affordable housing, expand the city’s tax base and create jobs.

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County Can’t Decide on Coggs Building

Milwaukee County seems to be moving forward with plans to demolish the Marcia P. Coggs Human Services Center building and construct a new facility on the site. Though officials have gone back and forth on this issue.

The building, 1220 W. Vliet St., is owned by Milwaukee County and currently provides office space for staff from the county Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). It also houses the Milwaukee office of the state Department of Health Services (DHS), which the county leases to the state. But the state has plans to vacate the building, which will leave the majority of the facility vacant.

In 2021, the county’s facilities management division reported that the building had a long list of deferred maintenance and that given how expensive it would be to repair and renovate it was in the county’s interest to move out of the building. Then, county DHHS officials announced plans to relocate staff there and sought funds from the county’s allocation of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to rehabilitate the building.

Upon further review, a detailed analysis of redevelopment options for the building found that the most affordable way for DHHS to remain on the site and also have new offices was to raze the Coggs Center building and build new. The loss of its largest tenant, the DHS office, coupled with building’s $45 million in deferred maintenance made it a “financial liability” for the county, as Peter Nilles, Director of Facilities Planning & Development, told the county board’s Community and Economic Development Committee Monday.

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Milwaukee Preservation Alliance Seeks New Leader

Milwaukee’s leading preservation advocacy organization, the Milwaukee Preservation Alliance, is looking for a new full-time, executive director as it approaches its 20th year of operation.

The current executive director, Jeremy Ebersole, is relocating back to Vermont with his family after two years at the helm.

“This is a very special place, and I will miss it deeply,” said Ebersole in a statement announcing his impending departure. “MPA is not a person or even a group of people; it is an idea. MPA is the feeling when you step into the Domes and are surrounded by the healing power of nature and the beauty of Modernist design. It is the unyielding belief that the Soldiers Home, a 150-year-old Cream City brick masterpiece that had been vacant for 30 years and had a collapsed roof, could be restored to serve veterans again. It is the commitment to partnerships that brought some of the historic preservation field’s most coveted national awards to Milwaukee in 2021. And it is the courage to advocate and rally around the places – from libraries to workers’ cottages to old hospitals and beyond – that make up the everyday lived experience of ALL Milwaukeeans.”

The new executive director will be just the third in the organization’s history. The board of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization created the position in 2019 as part of opening an office in the restored building at 1100-1110 S. 5th St.

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