Construction commences on new homes in north side Milwaukee subdivisions

Four lots so far have closed, with more anticipated

Milwaukee celebrated the start of new-home construction in Josey Heights and Walnut Circle.
Milwaukee celebrated the start of new-home construction in Josey Heights and Walnut Circle.

Milwaukee residents and leaders celebrated the commencement of construction of new homes in a pair of subdivisions on the near northwest side, in part the result of new incentives the city is offering.

Crews were turning dirt on Tuesday during a groundbreaking ceremony at Josey Heights, a subdivision located at North 12th and West Lloyd streets. New homes are also anticipated at the nearby Walnut Circle subdivision, at North 20th and West Walnut streets.

The groundbreaking this week came roughly six months after the city announced incentives for new-home construction in the subdivisions. A limited number of owner-occupants can buy lots for $1 and receive a forgivable second mortgage of $30,000.

Yves LaPierre, real estate project manager with Milwaukee Department of City Development, said four lots have closed this year between the two subdivisions, and the city has accepted offers on several more. He said incentives are available to the first 10 buyers.

Heidi Moore was the first to take advantage of the city incentives and closed on her new home in Josey Heights before Thanksgiving.

She said it was the city’s incentives that made it feasible for her family to build their new home at Josey Heights. Her family had been wanting to build for years, but it proved too expensive relative to the estimated appraised value.

“I had gotten preapproved by three different banks … but unfortunately the appraisal did not equal how much it would cost,” she said. “And so the deal stopped.”

Moore said it was efforts by the city and various private partners that made her new home and others in the neighborhood a reality.

Those partners include Associated Bank and the Zilber Family Foundation, whose contributions of $120,000 and $80,000, respectively, along with $150,000 from the city made the incentives possible.

Great Midwest Bank is a partner lender with the city and has worked with several recent home buyers at Josey Heights and Walnut Circle.

Milwaukee-based Emem Group LLC is designing and building the homes. They cost between roughly $255,000 and $285,000 to build.

“Buying a house can be a daunting task for a lot of people. Constructing a house can even be a heavier lift, and it takes a special type of person to make that kind of investment in an emerging market,” Michael Emem, president of Emem Group, said. “But all of our homeowners believed in this neighborhood, (and) believed in the vision and dream from day one, as did I.”

The subdivisions are largely vacant, and haven’t seen any new construction since their development began before the housing market crash and Great Recession. But Milwaukee officials have renewed their push to attract develop to the subdivisions, due to an improving market and renewed interest, they said.

There are 23 lots at Walnut Circle and 37 at Josey Heights, LaPierre said.

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Alex Zank
Alex Zank covers commercial and residential real estate for BizTimes. Alex previously worked for Farm Equipment magazine and also covered statewide construction news at The Daily Reporter. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he studied journalism, political science and economics. Having grown up in rural western Wisconsin, Alex loves all things outdoors, including camping, hiking, four-wheeling and hunting.

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