Construction crews officially broke ground this week on a 195-bed, $29.1 million project that involves the conversion of the former home of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel into affordable housing for Milwaukee Area Technical College students.
Milwaukee-based development firm J. Jeffers & Co. is the owner of the three former Journal Sentinel office buildings in downtown Milwaukee, bounded by Vel R. Phillips Avenue, State Street, Old World Third Street and Kilbourn Avenue.
The 1962 building addition is being turned into student housing, with rents to be as much as 20% below market rate.
When finished, the new apartment building will provide student housing just two blocks from MATC's downtown campus. It will offer amenities such as a fitness center, study lounges, community rooms, and underground parking for residents.
The plan is for the first students to move into the building by August. MATC stated in a news release it will soon begin marketing the apartments to students for the fall 2021 semester.
There is an acute need for quality affordable housing options downtown, according to MATC. More than 10,000 MATC students had incomes low enough to be eligible for financial aid in the last academic year.
1 of 8
“Our students are telling us that access to housing is key to giving them the stability they need to graduate and connect to a career, a four-year degree or both,” MATC president Vicki Martin said in a statement. “Ninety-five percent of our associate degree graduates gain employment within six months of graduation, and they’re earning an average of $52,280 — that’s more than both the per-capita and median household income in Milwaukee County."
Martin continued, "To help more students get there, stable and affordable housing is key. We are honored to partner with J. Jeffers & Co. and CG Schmidt on this project to make that happen.”
Danielle Bergner, chief operating officer and general counsel of Jeffers and an MATC alumna, said that housing costs for downtown student housing has "skyrocketed" in recent years.
"However, thanks to federal and state historic tax credits, we are able to bring down the cost of construction to a level where we can offer high-quality rental housing at a discount to market rents, and in turn, offer an affordable and stable housing option to the MATC student body," Bergner said in a statement.
Construction comes after Jeffers bought the three Journal Sentinel buildings last November and struck a deal with MATC, the city and the Milwaukee Bucks to advance the student housing portion of the project.
While not all project details are final, remaining portions of the former Journal Sentinel property will be converted into more housing and some commercial space.
Milwaukee-based CG Schmidt is the general contactor. Milwaukee-based Eppstein Uhen Architects is the architect for the project and Milwaukee-based Cross Management Services is a project consultant.
"CG Schmidt is proud to partner with J. Jeffers on this impactful project," Sarah Dunn, CG Schmidt vice president, said in a statement. "Not only will it provide affordable housing options for MATC students, it will also bring a long idle building in the heart of downtown back to life."
Project financing comes from U.S. Bank, WHEDA and Cedar Rapids Bank and Trust, with support from the Milwaukee Bucks and the city of Milwaukee.