Jeramey Jannene

Construction Starts On Long-Awaited King Drive Building

Five Points Lofts, first proposed in 2020, is finally becoming reality.

By - Feb 9th, 2024 05:50 pm
Anthony Kazee, Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs, Nicole Robbins, Mayor Cavalier Johnson and Evan Reed. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Anthony Kazee, Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs, Nicole Robbins, Mayor Cavalier Johnson and Evan Reed. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Construction is underway on a long-sought Harambee apartment building that will add 46 affordable apartments to the north end of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

“There is no doubt that this new development will be yet another positive step in the trajectory of MLK and Harambee,” said Mayor Cavalier Johnson at a groundbreaking ceremony held Friday afternoon at the site, 3317 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr.

Getting to this point hasn’t been easy, nor fast. The development, Five Points Lofts, was first publicly revealed in January 2020, when Johnson was still a first-term council member and COVID-19 was a thing few had heard of. But the site, a combination of long-vacant city-owned lots, has been awaiting change for even longer.

Area Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs has been thinking about it for decades. She grew up two blocks away. “I remember seeing this vacant lot for several years and wondering ‘what would it someday be?'” said Coggs.

She said the resulting project represents the spirit of Harambee, a Swahili word meaning “all pull together.” A 55-unit apartment building with approximately 7,500 square feet of commercial space with funding from the city and state and support from other partners, including Bader Philanthropies.

“None of this happened overnight,” said Coggs in praising the Department of City Development for advancing design charettes and other initiatives to build momentum in the area, even as the southern end of King Drive near Downtown grows organically. “It’s a little more challenging to sell people on the greatness of this northern end.”

She said when Bader Philanthropies moved in across the street in 2018, and then started to redevelop a neighboring building, the time was right to advance a request for proposals (RFP) for the site. An RFP was issued in fall 2019.

But developer Anthony Kazee, head of KG Development, was already looking at the site. He had studied it as a class project during his time in the Associates in Commercial Real Estate (ACRE) program, designed to train women and minorities for careers in real estate. Kazee, like Coggs, was long familiar with the site. He grew up in the surrounding neighborhood.

“I told him then, don’t look at this as just a class project,” said Coggs, herself an ACRE grad.

KG partnered with the Martin Luther King Economic Development Corporation (MLK EDC) on its bid for the site.

“When we first were awarded this RFP, we were excited, then COVID hit,” said MLK EDC Executive Director Nicole Robbins. After securing the site, the partners had first to secure low-income housing tax credits, then spent years battling rising construction costs and interest rates.

Robbins said the development team also had to get creative about how to engage neighbors with the plan. A drive-thru community engagement meeting was held. MLK EDC was familiar with the community; it previously developed several affordable apartment buildings to the south, but Robbins said the latest project would be its first to have market-rate units (nine of the 55) and dedicated green space.

One of the things that has changed as project costs went from $13 million to $19 million and then back to $16.4 million was a reconfiguration of the rear of the deep site. What once was contemplated as a basketball court and one-story parking structure with rooftop green space and micro retail stalls will now be surface parking and dedicated green space. Kazee told Urban Milwaukee a handful of micro-retail spaces may still be developed.

“A lot of value engineering. A lot of reduced development fees,” said Kazee in November when he detailed the cost-saving moves to get to the $16 million cost.

Even with the value engineering, the city is providing a $700,000 brownfield cleanup loan, via the Redevelopment Authority of the City of Milwaukee. A tax incremental financing district, approved in 2022, will also provide $737,000 to support the development. The State of Wisconsin contributed $2 million from its American Rescue Plan Act allocation in addition to the earlier Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) tax credit award.

“We were up until 1 a.m. trying to close this deal with WHEDA the last couple of days,” said Robbins, in praising the MLKEDC team. Board president Ben Johnson thanked his fellow board members for their longtime support.

The low-income housing credits require specific units to be rented at rates targeted at 30% of a qualifying lower-income household’s income.

The city employees in attendance were praised for pushing the deal forward. “Top notch people that work at the City of Milwaukee. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise,” said Robbins.

Catalyst Construction is serving as the general contractor on the development. Workshop Architects is leading the building’s design.

The 1.13-acre site includes five parcels: 3317-3329, 3333-33353341, 3345-3349 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. and 456 W. Concordia Ave. The building’s name is derived from the intersection of N. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, W. Keefe Avenue, W. Atkinson Avenue and N. 6th Street.

Kazee is involved in several other affordable developments. Construction is underway on the Riverwest Workforce Apartments and Food Accelerator, a 91-unit development on E. North Ave. His firm is also a partner with MLK EDC and One 5 Olive on the proposed redevelopment of the city-owned property at 3116 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. In the Uptown neighborhood, KG is pursuing the redevelopment of a former Jewish Home at 2436 N. 50th St.

Two other projects are also planned or under construction near Five Points Lofts. Emem Group is leading the Martin Luther King Library redevelopment, which includes three adjoining buildings. Construction started on that project to great fanfare in 2023. Indiana-based Annex Management Group was recently revealed to be seeking low-income housing tax credits for a four-story, 75-unit building at 3030 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr.


Site Photos

Earlier Renderings

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Categories: Real Estate

One thought on “Construction Starts On Long-Awaited King Drive Building”

  1. kenyatta2009 says:

    needed improvement

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