Bear Development plans 300 apartments at Harbor District site

Wants to preserve all 10 warehouse buildings for project

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Kenosha-based Bear Development plans to turn the mostly vacant warehouses southeast of East Becher and South First streets in Milwaukee’s Harbor District into approximately 300 apartment units.

S.R. Mills, chief executive of Bear, said about 210 of the units would be set aside for renters who make between 30-80% of the area’s median income. The remaining units would be rented at market rates, he said.

Mills said his firm will also create community space for residents, which could include a common area and fitness center. There would also be a minimal amount of commercial space, likely a small makerspace or coffee shop.

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“We think it will overall be positive and provide a lot of needed housing in the area,” Mills said.

There are 10 buildings on the site. Mills said he hopes to preserve and reuse all of the buildings. He added that Bear is pursuing historic tax credits through the National Park Service and affordable-housing tax credits through the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority to help finance the project. The firm intends to apply for the affordable-housing credits this year, he said.

Bear’s interest in the 10-acre Harbor District site became clear in September, after the developer filed an application for a zoning change that would allow a mix of uses at the site.

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That request is slated to be taken up by the City Plan Commission on Nov. 9.

A neighborhood meeting was held recently, in which residents got a chance to hear details about the project.

The development site consists of 10 warehouses totaling 211,100 square feet. Among the buildings is the historic Filer & Stowell woodworking and pattern shop, a three-story brick industrial loft built in 1895, according to Wisconsin Historical Society records.

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The site consists of two parcels at 123 and 147 E. Becher St. They are currently owned by Southwind Marine owner Brian Read.

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