E. North Ave. Apartments Moving Forward
Council committee endorses land sale, zoning change, TIF for long-sought development.
The City of Milwaukee is doing its part to move a new affordable apartment complex from rendering to reality.
“When people ask for how the city supports affordable housing, this is a really good example,” said Department of City Development affordable housing specialist Maria Prioletta to the Zoning, Neighborhoods & Development Committee Thursday morning.
The city listed the E. North Avenue site for sale in 2020, selected KG Development as the winning bidder later that same year, endorsed a zoning change and a request to the state for low-income housing tax credits, allocated funding from its Housing Trust Fund, served as a pass-through on a state grant and is now advancing a $1.25 million tax incremental financing (TIF) district that is effectively a property tax rebate.
The Riverwest Workforce Apartments and Food Accelerator will include 91 apartments, 83 of which will be set aside at below-market rates for qualifying individuals making between 30% and 80% of the area’s median income.
“I think it’s important to point out – doing affordable housing requires subsidies,” said committee chair Alderman Michael Murphy.
“I’m just extremely excited that this project, though it has taken awhile, has come through,” said area Alderman Jonathan Brostoff. He said he wants to see more affordable housing in his district, which includes the East Side and Riverwest, and would like to see more developers come forward with proposals.
Getting the four-story Riverwest project to a groundbreaking was a longer-than-expected process.
Developer Anthony Kazee, principal at KG Development, estimated that COVID-19-era cost inflation has added between $4 million to $5 million in construction costs to what is now a $30.4 million project.
The L-shaped building will fill a vacant 1.34-acre lot at 1136-1146 E. North Ave., just west of UW-Milwaukee’s RiverView Hall residence hall. Formerly a Department of Public Works service yard, the long-vacant parcel would be merged with adjoining private parcels totaling 0.53 acres. A billboard will be removed, which Gorens-Levey said required its own negotiation.
Nineteen of the affordable units would be set aside for those needing supportive services and services would be coordinated with nonprofit providers.
“This project really does an amazing job checking all the boxes,” said DCD planning manager Sam Leichtling of its compliance with city land-use plans. It creates more affordable housing, locates higher-density housing on transit corridors and fills a vacant lot. He credited the request for proposals (RFP) process, which drew six bidders, for setting the stage for success with its explicit preference for affordable housing.
A commercial demonstration kitchen would be included along E. North Avenue. “It’s meant to be used as a place to train existing food entrepreneurs in a commercial setting and train people that want to learn,” said Kazee. The developers plan to work with a number of nonprofit partners. The space would also serve as the building’s community room, with a garage door sealing off the cooking equipment.
The zoning change allows for 37 surface parking spaces at the rear of the site and 56 spaces in the base of the building. Ten two-story, three-bedroom townhouse units would face the parking lot. Solar panels, financed by a tax credit award, would be added to the building’s roof.
Rental rates are expected to range from $495 to $1,750 per month depending on unit size, household size and income level. The federally-regulated rents are designed not to exceed 30% of a household’s income.
Engberg Anderson Architects is designing the building. Catalyst Construction will be the construction manager, with General Capital’s Bedrock Construction the general contractor. The partners previously identified TEAM Management as the property manager.
The development team will pay $750,000 for the site as part of the RFP process. The TIF district, detailed in our earlier coverage, will rebate increased property tax revenue from the development.
The project is the fourth to be subject to the 2019 anti-displacement policy which requires that 20% of any affordable units in any development in targeted ZIP codes that receive city financial assistance be set aside for at least 30 days for priority leasing by neighborhood residents.
The committee unanimously endorsed the new TIF district, the zoning change and the land sale.
The full council will vote on the components on July 11. The TIF agreement calls for construction to be completed by December 2024.
Earlier Renderings and Site Plan
Site Photos and Unbuilt 2012 Project Renderings
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Related Legislation: File 211510