Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:11 pm
With the first phase of Foxconn Technology Group’s $10 billion development in Mount Pleasant currently under construction, thousands of jobs, and new residents, could be coming to Racine County.
Developing enough housing in the county, which has not had market-rate multi-family built there since pre-2000, has been a recent focus of the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority and elected officials.
“We certainly have challenges to address, but they are good challenges to have,” said Racine County Executive Jonathan Delagrave. “We want to make sure we are building the right housing, in the right areas, where infrastructure is in place.”
Delagrave was joined by fellow elected officials and local developers Wednesday in Racine at WHEDA’s Southeastern Wisconsin Housing Summit.
He said each of Racine County’s 17 municipalities have something unique to offer in terms of housing.
“We are an ascending community,” Delagrave said. “Our little brother to the south (Illinois) wishes they had these problems.”
The city of Racine has already begun to see the positive effects of Foxconn. Developers have started to purchase property and make plans to redevelop existing sites or build new multi family developments.
Milwaukee developer Joshua Jeffers, president of J. Jeffers & Co., is working on a $19 million project at the former Gold Medal Co. Inc. furniture manufacturing buildings in Uptown that will create 77 units of market-rate and affordable apartments.
Jeffers also purchased three buildings this summer at the former Horlick Malted Milk Co. complex for a combined 246,000 square feet, plus an additional 8 acres of vacant land. Over the next 10 years, he is planning to a multi-phase project that could produce up to 400 units of affordable and market-rate apartments. The first phase will begin with 80 to 90 predominately affordable housing units.
“In the last 12 months, we have had more interest in development and redevelopment than we have seen in 25 years,” Racine Mayor Cory Mason said Wednesday. “If you want to live in a city with a great historic downtown, and a view of the sunrise over Lake Michigan and be 10 miles away from Foxconn, we have a lot of that.”
The village of Union Grove recently approved a $13 million apartment project that will add 73 units to its downtown.
Jerry Franke, who retired in June from leading Wispark LLC, the real estate development subsidiary of Milwaukee-based WEC Energy Group, has been working with Racine County on its housing initiative related to Foxconn.
Franke led a panel discussion Wednesday with Jeffers, Bob Monnat, chief operating officer Mandel Group, Ryan Douglas, president of Kenosha-based Land Quest, and Wyman Winston, executive director of WHEDA.
The group agreed that going forward, affordable, or what is sometimes referred to as “workforce” housing, would be needed and municipalities should be willing to change their perception about what that type of housing means.
Monnat said two of Mandel Group’s projects – the second phase of the North End in downtown Milwaukee, and Lighthorse 4041 in Shorewood include 20 percent affordable housing, which has worked out seamlessly because all of the units are identical despite their being a 50 cent on the dollar price difference between rents.
“I think there will be a lot of income brackets that fall in that workforce area,” Monnat said. “There is such a demand for workforce housing now. That’s where the real action could be.”