Seeking momentum for Villard Avenue

Real Estate Spotlight

Michael Malatesta purchased a historic warehouse at 5070 N. 35th St. in an effort to improve the Old Milwaukee North neighborhood.

Last updated on June 20th, 2019 at 11:48 am

A planned four-story residential development on Milwaukee’s northwest side has gotten a boost from the city, and if all goes as planned, the project could begin next spring.

3600@Villard, planned at the corner of North 37th Street and West Villard Avenue, would include 43 affordable apartments and 1,600 square feet of ground level commercial space.

In late October, the city created a $500,000 developer-financed tax increment financing district to subsidize the new apartment building.  Developers are still waiting for one more federal funding source, which should be secured by early December.

But 3600@Villard could do more for the Old North Milwaukee neighborhood than just provide another housing option.

The $7 million project, which is being developed by Milwaukee-based Index Development Group and Northbrook, Illinois-based Brinshore Development, would bookend Villard Avenue.

The last major project in the neighborhood was the West Villard Square Library Branch redevelopment in 2011. The 12,770-square-foot library moved to its current location at 5190 N. 35th St. and includes 47 apartments on three stories, above the library, where grandparents who are the primary caregivers for their grandchildren can live.

“The recession stifled development (on the street),” said Que El-Amin, who is leading development of 3600@Villard. “I want to be the one to kickstart the development of Villard Avenue. It is still a vibrant commercial corridor. If you go there on a Saturday, you still see a lot of commerce happening.”

The Villard Avenue Business Improvement District, which stretches from North 34th Street to North Teutonia Avenue, includes 114 properties. The vacancy rate is 36 percent, said Stephanie Harling, executive director with the Havenwoods Economic Development Corp., which is currently working with the Villard Avenue BID.

“We have had years of serious disinvestment,” Harling said, adding that during her 20-year tenure, the first 10 years was a slow decline, but over the past 10 years, she has seen a rapid downturn in the neighborhood.

“Economics has a lot to do with it,” Harling said. “But there also has not been a lot of public investment on the street. We’re happy about the TIF district and we’re hoping that with the TIF, it will bring some community amenities.”

The Villard Avenue BID recently appointed Angelique Sharpe, who is employed by Havenwoods, to serve as a liaison and lead efforts to attract more commercial businesses to the neighborhood.

“We need small businesses to start investing and moving in,” Harling said. “I think everyone is very, very hopeful in the direction the street is going.”

Michael Malatesta, founder and former owner of Advanced Waste Services, purchased a vacant warehouse at 3216 W. Villard Ave. in December 2013, for his business.   

In 2015, Advanced Waste Services was acquired by Covanta Environmental Solutions, the subsidiary of Morristown, N.J.-based Covanta. The company consolidated the Milwaukee and West Allis locations of Advanced Waste Services into the West Villard Avenue building after fully renovating the space.

Today, Malatesta is still invested in the Old North Milwaukee neighborhood, serving on the Villard Avenue BID board of directors. He still owns the West Villard Avenue building.

In April, he purchased another warehouse, the historic A.D. Meiselbach Co. building at 5070 N. 35th St.

Malatesta bought the three-story cream city brick building from the Richard R. Pieper Sr. charitable trust for $300,000, according to state records. He spent several months renovating the property, which was built in 1896, and now plans to lease it to a small manufacturer, nonprofit or entrepreneur.

“I’m also open to potential development ideas,” Malatesta said. “I own the property contiguous to it, so all together it is a 4.5-acre property.”

When Malatesta purchased the West Villard Street building it was a large, vacant warehouse in foreclosure. Today, it is a thriving business with more than 65 employees. Like El-Amin, Harling and others, his goal is to build on West Villard Avenue’s successes.

“I feel like we just need a couple more projects to get the momentum going to get the rest of the way,” Malatesta said. “There is something there, we’ve already got the library as a focal point on the street, now we’ve just got to keep going.”

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