Housing Authority plans 32-story mixed-income apartment tower downtown

Development to include up to 350 units and 40,000 square feet of office space

A rendering of the proposed 32-story mixed-income tower proposed by the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee. (Rendering: Korb + Associates)

Last updated on May 15th, 2019 at 04:47 pm

The Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee plans to build a 32-story building at the corner of Knapp and Milwaukee streets downtown, that would have as many as 350 apartment units.

The apartments would include a mix of market-rate and affordable units. Conceptual plans additionally call for 40,000 square feet of office space and amenities typically found in upscale high-rises such as a swimming pool and fitness center.

Development plans were presented Wednesday afternoon to the Housing Authority board. The roughly $150 million project would be developed by Travaux Inc., an affiliate of the Housing Authority.

The tower would be built on a currently vacant site just south of the nine-story Convent Hill Housing Authority building at 455 E. Ogden Ave. The project includes a 425-stall parking structure, with some of those reserved for Convent Hill residents.

Also part of development would be up to 13 townhouses along Milwaukee and Knapp streets. The two-bedroom townhouses would shield the interior parking structure from the streets.

Scott Simon, vice president of development with Travaux, said it hasn’t yet been determined exactly how many of the units will be set aside for low-income families.

“It will be a mixed-income (project), but we don’t know at what level and what percentages yet,” he said.

Moreover, this development is a departure from other projects that the Housing Authority has built in previous years. Simon said typically the authority has developed solely residential buildings, with 100% of the units being affordable.

“It’s a logical step from where we’ve been before,” he said.

He noted such developments are far more common in other parts of the country. In fact, places like New York City have zoning requirements that ensures affordable units are included with residential developments.

Sometimes, developers who need to adhere to those inclusionary housing requirements will provide separate lobbies for residents depending on what type of unit they reside in. This development would not be one of those, as it would fully integrate the units and have only one lobby, said Simon.

“We’re going to be fully integrated and you will not know what unit is affordable and what isn’t,” said project architect Jason Korb, of Milwaukee-based Korb + Associates.

Korb added he’s worked on similar mixed-use, mixed-income projects before, including the Germania Building downtown and the Greenwich Park Apartments on the city’s East Side. However, none of these projects were this large.

This proposal is also a departure from previous Housing Authority projects in the way it will be financed. Whereas traditionally the authority would rely on tax credits, Simon said in this instance he’s looking at more conventional methods. This would include federal loan servicers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as well as private debt and equity markets.

He also pointed out the fact the site lies in an Opportunity Zone. The Opportunity Zone program was established as part of the 2017 federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, and aims to spur private investment in distressed areas throughout the U.S.

Simon said the plan is to secure all necessary city approvals in July, prior to the Milwaukee Common Council’s August recess. Ideally, construction would then begin in spring 2020.

 

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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.