Proposed Park East development has heavy community benefits emphasis

Fair Market Development LLC is placing a heavy emphasis on community benefits for its Park East project.

Fair Market Development LLC, which is proposing a $76 million development, called Eco-Square at Park East, with about 400 residences and 10,000 square feet of retail space in the Park East corridor, is placing a heavy emphasis on community benefits with the project.

Fair Market Development has hired Marvin Pratt & Associates, owned by former Milwaukee Mayor Marvin Pratt, who will help assure that the project meets its economic empowerment objectives.

Community benefits have been a major issue in downtown Milwaukee’s Park East corridor. None of the land in the corridor that is owned by Milwaukee County has attracted any development. The County Board adopted the Park East Redevelopment Compact (PERC) for reviewing developments on the county-owned land in the corridor. The PERC requires developers to pay "prevailing" wages for construction projects on the county land. In addition, the PERC indicates that developers that hire local employees, provide job training or create green space would be more likely to be selected. However, developers criticized the PERC, saying it would discourage development. County Executive Scott Walker has called for the elimination of the PERC to help attract development to the corridor.

However Fair Market Development, which consists of developers Robert Schultz and Harry Drea, say they will comply with the PERC. Fair Market Development’s project is the only response to a request for proposals for a vacant lot in the Park East corridor owned by Milwaukee County and located between North Broadway, North Water Street, North Milwaukee Street, East Lyon Street and East Ogden Avenue.

"Collectively and individually, each and every firm of this team is committed to the community benefits espoused by the PERC," said Fair Market’s response to the RFP. "These objectives and actions are not only a matter of business for all of us on the team, they are a reflection of our commitment and relationship with the communities that we work with and in."

In addition, Pratt told a Common Council committee this week that Fair Market Development supports a proposal to require community benefits for projects that receive $1 million or more in tax incremental financing from the city.

Schultz and Drea’s Park East corridor project consists of a series of 8-13 story structures and 13 townhouses. The townhouses will be rented with an option to buy. They will have two levels, with up to 2,400 square feet of space, with a 1,200-square-foot separate work/live unit below them. All of the other residences in the project will be available for rent. The project will have a total of about 400 residences.

The project includes 10,000 square feet of street level retail space, 45,000 square feet of work/live space and structured parking for 600 vehicles and a public park.

The developers will seek local retailers for the project’s retail space.

The residences will be affordable for low, moderate and middle income families, says Fair Market Development’s response to the RFP. "Fair Market Development will endeavor to work with local non-profits to make housing options available to a broader spectrum of buyers," the RFP response says. About 10 percent of the housing units in the project will be "affordable," according to the RFP response. In addition, one housing unit per year will be designated rent-free for a college student dedicated to pursuing a career focused on fair market real estate development.

The developers say the project will also provide numerous "workforce benefits." Construction firms working on the project will be signatory to the local labor union bargaining agreements entitling all workers to a "living wage." In addition, at least 75 percent of the employees on the site after construction is completed will be paid at least $8.46 an hour. Forty percent of "worker hours" will comply with the city’s "residents preference requirements" that are used for public works projects. In addition, 25 percent of construction work and 18 percent of other services will comply with the city’s emerging business enterprises standards. All construction companies on the site will be encouraged to collaborate with agencies to provide workforce training. The project will comply with the same requirements for use of apprentices that the city applies to its own contracting.

The project will also include several environmentally-friendly "green" elements, including a 20,000-square-foot green roof, and the developers expect Eco-Square to receive a LEED rating. Eco-Square at Park East will have photovoltaic cells that will be used to recharge electric cars. All of the construction workers on the project will be certified in sustainable construction practices.

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