A developer who had more than $324,000 in overdue property taxes as of late July, and has been unable to get city approval for a project in Brewers Hill because of unpaid building code violation fines, plans to convert a 103-year-old, seven-story building in Walker’s Point into an upscale apartment building. The developer is Tim Olson, principal of Olson Management Group. He plans to purchase the 98,035-square-foot building at 223 W. Pittsburg Ave., Milwaukee, from the Ronald and Miriam J. Cohen Family Limited Partnership.
"I do have it under contract to purchase right after the first of the year," Olson said. The building is occupied by Ron Cohen’s company, Shelton-Reynolds Inc., an industrial fabrics and webbing distributor. Shelton-Reynolds will move its offices to Mequon and eliminate its warehouse function, Cohen said. The company will ship from its vendors instead of keeping the product at a warehouse in Milwaukee, he said. The company will eliminate a few positions. Those employees are retiring, Cohen said. Cohen said he has not yet signed a lease for office space in Mequon.
Cohen and Olson declined to disclose the sale price for the building. The property has an assessed value of $967,000, according to city records. The assessed value of the property has been climbing recently, resulting in "ridiculously high" property taxes, Cohen said. The tax increase is one of the reasons the company is moving, Cohen said. "The City of Milwaukee is constantly raising taxes," he said. "The best use of the area is condos and apartments. All of a sudden (the property) is valuable, and the city jacks (the assessment and property taxes) up."
Olson said he plans to spend about $10 million to acquire and redevelop the building with more than 60 luxury apartments. The apartments will have between 600 and 1,800 square feet of space. Olson plans to add an eighth floor to the building, which will have six penthouses with monthly rents of about $2,400. Olson said he also plans to seek historic preservation tax credits for the building.
The redevelopment of the Historic Third Ward is spreading into the Walker’s Point area, making the building attractive, Olson said. "There really isn’t much left in the Third Ward to develop," he said. "(Walker’s Point) is going to be like what we have in the Third Ward now." Olson and Sonny Bando have proposed a five-story, 53-unit apartment and condominium development northwest of East Brown Street and North Holton Street in Brewers Hill. However, aldermen balked at approving a re-zoning request for the project because Olson still owes about $26,000 in building code violation fines, which are due Sept. 26. In addition, a report by the Department of Neighborhood Services indicated that Olson owed $324,716 in overdue property taxes as of July 27.
Olson said his goal is to get the fines and overdue property tax payments paid so he can convince aldermen to approve the Brewers Hill project. He is hoping to make those payments and receive Common Council approval for the project in September. "I anticipate taking care of what they want and moving forward with that project," he said. "It’s on Holton Street. Nobody has developed there. Nobody has invested in that area."
Olson also recently broke ground for two smaller projects. He is building a $2 million development with six townhouses, in three-story side-by-side units, on a 10,800-square-foot lot at the northeast corner of Brown and Buffum streets in Brewers Hill. The townhouses cost about $370,000 each and five of the six units have been sold, Olson said. The project is expected to be complete in May, he said. A duplex and garage were demolished to make way for the development.
Olson and Bando also recently broke ground on a three-story, six-unit apartment building at 924-26 N. 16th St., near the Marquette University campus. A duplex was razed to make way for the project, which is expected to be completed in June.
Olson’s plans in Walker’s Point come on the heels of the Milwaukee Common Council approving an ordinance requiring each applicant before the Board of Zoning Appeals and the City Plan Commission to submit a signed affidavit indicating whether they owe the city money for a range of items, including delinquent property taxes and assessments, unpaid judgments and outstanding health and building code violations. The ordinance’s author, Alderman Robert Bauman, said the new requirement will provide city officials with an important tool they can use to collect unpaid taxes, judgments and fines – as well as a means to get property owners and landlords to comply with code violation orders and to make sure they abate nuisances.