Jeramey Jannene

See Inside School-To-Apartments Conversion of Former Edison Middle School

The original North Milwaukee High School now a welcoming home for seniors.

By - May 30th, 2024 05:42 pm
Edison School Apartments, 5372 N. 37th St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Edison School Apartments, 5372 N. 37th St. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Schools out for summer for many Milwaukee students. But move-in starts Saturday for a cohort of Milwaukee seniors.

Gorman & Company executive Ted Matkom and partner developer Malik Cupid are ready to welcome the first residents into the redeveloped Edison Middle School, 5372 N. 37th St., in the Old North Milwaukee neighborhood.

The building has gone by many different names and has been part of two different school districts. It was built in 1924 as North Milwaukee High School for the then-separate Village of North Milwaukee. But by 1929, when the building’s first addition was completed, the village was annexed by the City of Milwaukee and it entered Milwaukee Public Schools. It was the original Custer High School and later Edison Junior High School. An addition was constructed in the 1960s. Last known as Edison Middle School, the complex has been vacant since it was closed in 2008.

Now, it houses 63 apartments, set aside at below-market rates to individuals 55 and older.

A portion of the former parking lot was redeveloped into 12 three-bedroom townhomes, leased at affordable rates without age restrictions.

Matkom, Gorman’s Wisconsin Market President, and Cupid showed off the $28 million development Thursday afternoon. The core of its financing is low-income housing tax credits, which provide up-front equity in exchange for reserving units at rates designed not to exceed 30% of a household’s income. Units are set aside for households making 30%, 50% and 60% of the Milwaukee County median income.

The project was first introduced in 2020 as a $20 million proposal, but saw its costs grow due to inflation. The city backed the development with a $1.1 million environmental cleanup loan, a $965,000 grant from its Housing Trust Fund, a grant of $750,000 from the city’s allocation of HOME affordable housing funds and $875,000 from a tax incremental financing district that will effectively rebate increased property tax revenue from the development. Additional funding comes from the state’s American Rescue Plan Act grant and historic preservation tax credits.

Gorman has carved out a niche converting vacant MPS buildings into housing, starting with the former Jackie Robinson Middle School in 2023. It has largely avoided public opposition along the way. “The nice thing about historic development is you are not building a new four-story building that somebody won’t like,” joked Matkom.

An additional perk is that the classrooms convert nicely into apartments. All of the apartments in the latest building are one- or two-bedroom units.

But there are plenty of challenges.

“The core of this building is gyms and things you can’t put units in,” said Matkom of the lack of natural light. The development team mothballed the former gym and an auditorium, which it determined would require new bathrooms, accessibility improvements and an additional elevator to meet code requirements for public use. “Unfortunately it’s a huge community asset we can’t bring back.”

The original wood windows were rehabbed, a standard mandate for accessing historic preservation tax credits. Original wood and terrazzo floors were restored and exposed throughout the building. Lockers, as required to access the tax credits, were maintained, but are purely ornamental now.

“You are always negotiating with [historic preservation officers] with what you can take apart and what you can’t,” said Matkom.

Area Alderwoman Andrea Pratt was on hand to see the new apartments. She has a deep connection to the building. Her husband went to school and her mother worked in the library.

“Twenty-five to 30% of the people that come in here are seniors that went to school here,” said Matkom. “That’s why it’s a huge neighborhood for people to sell their homes to stay in the neighborhood.”

All of the units include in-unit washers and dryers. New amenities in the 152,240-square-foot building include a community room and a fitness room. The hallways will receive a touch of color from southside art organization La Familia. The organization previously collaborated with Gorman on the William McKinley School redevelopment.

The two-story townhomes face south toward W. Rohr Avenue.

Move-in begins Saturday on the first 15 apartments. In addition, all 12 of the townhomes are already leased.

The townhomes sit just south of the footprint of the former 36th Street elementary school. Once connected by a tunnel, the building was demolished between 1975 and 1980 according to historic aerial images.

Redeveloping a school is the perfect fit for Cupid, a rising star developer who currently spends his days as an assistant principal with Milwaukee Public Schools. In 2019, he graduated from the Associates in Commercial Real Estate, ACRE, program designed to train women and minorities for careers in real estate. His next project through Cupid Development is a partnership with St. Matthew A.M.E. Church.

Lease applications are being accepted. But consistent with other low-income housing tax credit-supported developments, units are expected to be leased quickly.


Exterior Photos

2020 Photos

Pre-Development Interior Photos From City of Milwaukee


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Categories: Real Estate

2 thoughts on “See Inside School-To-Apartments Conversion of Former Edison Middle School”

  1. Jhenry1131 says:

    Love this!!! Housing is such a huge issue these days. It really pays to be creative!

  2. kaygeeret says:

    Excellent use for a redundant building.

    Apts look very nice.

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