Jeramey Jannene
Friday Photos

Harambee Block Transformed By New Buildings

Six houses and a new apartment building fill formerly vacant land.

By - Jun 23rd, 2023 04:06 pm
New houses on the 3200 block of N. 5th Street. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

New houses on the 3200 block of N. 5th Street. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity and Crown Court Properties are giving new life to a full block in Harambee and closing the book on a failed 1970s urban renewal scheme that left most of the block, and several others nearby, vacant for several decades.

The block, bounded by W. Concordia Avenue, W. Ring Street, N. 5th Street and N. 6th Street, was nearly entirely cleared in the 1970s for a senior housing development that refilled only a portion of the site. A series of homes facing N. 5th St. were demolished in the following decades, with the city ending up owning most of the lots through property tax foreclosure.

In 2022, Crown Court completed a three-story, 13-unit apartment building, 540 W. Ring St., at the southwest corner of the block. It serves as an extension of the seniors-only, 62-unit Park Hill Apartments, 535 W. Concordia Ave., that the firm previously acquired.

The senior housing building was constructed in 1978 as Camilla Court, but rehabilitated in 2005 through the low-income housing tax credit program and rebranded Park Hill, reflecting the steep grade of the block.

The new building, the Park Hill Family Apartments, includes a mix of market-rate and affordable units with two-bedroom and three-bedroom layouts. The affordable units have income restrictions. The building, which has a townhouse style, was designed by Cityscape Architecture and constructed by Northcentral Construction.

Habitat is now nearly complete with the construction of six new homes on the eastern edge of the block. The new houses, sold to qualify owner-occupants who put in sweat equity to build the homes and complete financial counseling, are part of the nonprofit’s work to build 80 homes in the neighborhood.

The organization purchased five of the lots for $1 each from the city, while laying out $21,000 for a lot owned by an affiliate Crown Court. The Mequon-based firm had acquired the property, 3259 N. 5th St., for the same amount in 2018 and demolished the house on the site. It was the last house on the block.

The new houses include rooftop solar panels through a partnership with the Midwest Renewable Energy Association and the utility-backed Focus on Energy program. Arch Solar is leading the installations.

The houses are each between 1,200 and 1,400 square feet with three to four bedrooms and two floors of living space.

Habitat famously relies on volunteer labor and private donations to build its houses. The homes on the 3200 block of N. 5th St. are no exception, with signage thanking Bader Philanthropies, Komatsu, Accunet Mortgage and Sargento amongst others.

There is one structure that has stood the test of time on the block: the Holy Ghost Lutheran Church at 541-547 W. Concordia Ave. Built in 1905, the facade includes the church’s name in German, reflecting its early congregants who continued worship in German until the 1960s.


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