Union initiative to invest in Milwaukee housing projects

$2 billion going to nine cities through Midwest@Work


A union initiative called Midwest@Work is investing $2 billion in nine Midwestern cities, including Milwaukee, to try to jumpstart economic development.

Midwest@Work is a program of the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust, which is a fixed-income investment company. It is targeting states that border the Great Lakes with investments, specifically focusing on Milwaukee, Minneapolis, St. Paul, St. Louis, Detroit, Columbus, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Buffalo.


The HIT has plans to invest a total of more than $1 billion in 90 projects over the next seven years, with partners investing another $900 million. The investment amounts are not being broken out by city. The economic impact of the funding is projected to be $3.8 billion.

In Milwaukee, the AFL-CIO HIT previously invested $40 million in The Moderne, an apartment and condominium tower developed by Barret Lo Visionary Development and opened in 2012.

“Our largest, most recent investment in Milwaukee was The Moderne with Rick Barrett,” said Ted Chandler, chief operating officer and managing director for Midwest@Work. “That’s been an entry point for us to talk to Rick about his further developments and to apartment developers in other areas in Milwaukee and so this is us rolling up our sleeves to put in further good investments to put people to work.”

Chandler couldn’t say which Milwaukee projects the HIT plans to invest in next, but did say Midwest@Work is in “very fruitful discussions” with Barrett. Barrett Lo Visionary Development is currently seeking funding to finance its $122 million, 44-story luxury apartment building, The Couture.

Midwest@Work will invest $1 billion in 60 multifamily housing projects; $157 million for repair and restoration of 1,000 homes in five cities; and $100 million in predevelopment and bridge loans for 25 housing or commercial transactions.

The efforts are expected to counter the disinvestment in the Midwest’s urban neighborhoods and the resulting abandoned housing and blight.

The initiative’s leaders are currently in discussions with Milwaukee city officials, including Mayor Tom Barrett, about identifying opportunities for affordable housing development in lower income neighborhoods in Milwaukee, Chandler said.

Today, HIT named its chief operating officer, Theodore Chandler, managing director of Midwest@Work. He will serve in both roles.

“I’m excited to lead the Midwest@Work investment strategy project as its managing director and look forward to making investments that will facilitate community and economic development across the Midwest,” Chandler said. “The HIT plans to oversee programs that contribute to a significant boost in local economies while creating thousands of union jobs. I’m thankful for this incredible opportunity to make a difference in communities and the lives of working families.”

The AFL-CIO HIT manages $5.8 billion in assets for about 390 investors, including union and public employee pension plans. It targets its investments to provide competitive investor returns, and also spur construction projects that create union jobs.

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