Jeffers working with Bucks, MATC and city to advance student-housing portion of Journal Square project

Courtesy of J. Jeffers & Co.
Courtesy of J. Jeffers & Co.

Engaging in a partnership with the Milwaukee Bucks, Milwaukee Area Technical Collage and the city of Milwaukee, developer J. Jeffers & Co. will move forward with the conversion of one of the Journal Sentinel office buildings into affordable student housing.

Jeffers is the owner of the downtown Journal Sentinel buildings. The firm bought the three buildings in November and is planning an adaptive reuse project once the newspaper moves its offices later this year.

The building located southwest of West State Street and North Old World Third Street will be converted into 77 units of student housing, at an expected cost of $27.7 million. This portion of the project is made possible under an arrangement between the four entities. It is slated to move forward later this summer.

According to a news release, the Bucks will agree to forgo $1 million from an existing tax incremental finance agreement, and the city will redirect that $1 million to the student-housing project. Meanwhile, MATC will enter into an agreement that will reserve all the residential units for its students. The MATC commitment is subject to approval by the Wisconsin Technical College System Board.

According to a public notice from the city, the TIF money will be used for façade restoration and creation of the residential units. The developer will advance all costs for the project. Once the work is completed, the city will make annual cash grants to the developer from the incremental taxes collected from the project until the $1 million is repaid at an interest rate of 4.5%, over a period not to exceed 10 years.

In addition, Jeffers will implement a workforce development plan that will ensure inclusion goals are met on the project. This includes small-business contracting and resident-hiring goals both for construction and end-use operations.

“This project would not be possible without MATC’s commitment and the support of the Milwaukee Bucks and the City of Milwaukee,” Josh Jeffers, president and CEO of Jeffers, said in a statement. “By working together, we are able to make this a project that will transform the student life experience for those attending MATC and provide a significant boost to the area.”

The mix of studio, two-bedroom and four-bedroom units will total 189 beds when complete. It will also feature other amenities aimed at enhancing the MATC student-life experience, according to the release.

“This is a significant expansion of our ability to offer affordable housing so close to our downtown Milwaukee campus,” Vicki Martin, president of MATC, said in a statement. “We are grateful to Joshua for his innovative approach and look forward to seeing this plan come to life to better serve our students.”

It is one component of Jeffers’ overall Journal Square project. The release states that plans for the largest building, southeast of West State Street and North Vel R. Phillips Ave., haven’t been finalized. But plans previously filed with the city depict a mixed-use building containing 103 units of housing plus retail space.

Plans for the final building, the Major Goolsby’s sports bar at 340 W. Kilbourn Ave., are still in the early discussions, according to the release.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our lives and the development and real estate business in myriad ways, but the need for affordable housing for MATC students has not changed one bit,” Jeffers said. “We look forward to moving ahead with this project later this summer.”

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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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