MLK Economic Development Corp. initiative to encourage home ownership in Harambee neighborhood

Program will rehab up to 10 homes annually


The Martin Luther King Economic Development Corp. has launched a program to purchase and rehabilitate homes and resell them to owner-occupants in Milwaukee’s Harambee neighborhood.

Nicole Robbins

Through the new MLK Homes initiative, MLKEDC plans to acquire annually about 8 to 10 single-family homes and duplexes, which will in turn be sold to residents of the neighborhood on the city’s north side, said Leo Ries, interim executive director.

Over the past two decades MLKEDC has focused on building multi-family projects to create affordable housing in the area near Center Street and King Drive.

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MLKEDC recently completed the Welford Sanders Historic Lofts & Enterprise Center, a $21 million rehabilitation project of the former Nunn Bush shoe factory at 2812 N. Fifth St. and 2821 N. Vel R. Phillips Ave., in a joint venture with Wisconsin Redevelopment LLC.

MLKEDC is now shifting its focus to promoting home ownership with the goal of “building a sense of community in the neighborhood,” Ries said. 

Nicole Robbins, an attorney with a background in law and real estate, is leading the initiative.

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“MLK Homes is a very tailored strategy that will consider the best fits for properties and people. I’m excited to put my real estate and legal experience to work, while building relationships with current and potential home-owners in the community,” Robbins said.

MLKEDC said the project complements other existing initiatives, including the Harambee Neighborhood Improvement District, which provides rehab financing for existing owner-occupants, and Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity’s plans to target the Harambee neighborhood for housing development.

The MLKEDC was awarded $300,000 from the city of Milwaukee for MLK Homes. The program is also supported by the Local Initiatives Support Corporation Milwaukee, with federal funding from Housing and Urban Development Section IV. 

“LISC looks for innovative and impactful models for our investments, and the MKE Homes promises both,” said Donsia Strong Hill, executive director of LISC. “It builds on MLKEDC’s rich history of physical development in the neighborhood, while addressing the current and pressing need to mitigate displacement of current residents as downtown development reaches the adjacent neighborhoods.”

MLKEDC is working with partner Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Ries said.

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