Work starts on $40 million Soldiers Home project to create veteran housing

Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home
Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home

Restoration work has begun on the Milwaukee VA Soldiers Home project.

A recent groundbreaking ceremony marked the beginning of the project, which consists of the rehabilitation of six buildings on the grounds of the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center, located near Miller Park, to provide housing for veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

Madison-based developer The Alexander Co. and the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee in 2016 were selected to lead the restoration project by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The project is made possible through an enhanced use lease agreement with the VA. The law authorizing such agreements requires the buildings be used for their original purpose of serving veterans.

“This project entailed a significant collaborative effort, which speaks volumes to our nation’s commitment to care for our veterans,” said Joseph Alexander, president of The Alexander Co.

Once the work is complete, the buildings will provide 101 supportive-housing units for veterans and their families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

The buildings to be restored include the iconic Old Main building. Crews will preserve the buildings’ interior and exterior historic features.

Crews have been busy cleaning out the Old Main building and ridding it of harmful materials, such as asbestos and lead paint. Construction work is expected to finish in the first quarter of 2021.

The Old Main, a former domiciliary for patient living and care, will be renovated into an 80-unit apartment building for veterans, including 70 one-bedroom and 10 two-bedroom units. It will feature amenities such as large community spaces, resource centers and a fitness area.

Meanwhile, the Headquarters Building will be converted into single-room occupancy units, which will provide housing for 14 homeless or at-risk veterans. It will also include a common-area kitchen and dining, community and living rooms. The historic post office on the first floor of the building will be used as supportive program offices.

Several duplexes on the grounds will also be restored for veteran housing. These include the former Catholic Chaplain’s Quarters and three private homes that formerly housed Soldiers Home staff and their families. The Chaplain’s Quarters will remain a four-bedroom single-family home, while the others will become two-story, three-bedroom duplexes.

The project is primarily being designed by The Alexander Co. and Milwaukee-based Uihlein/Wilson-Ramlow/Stein Architects. Janesville-based J.P. Cullen & Sons Inc. is the general contractor. The Housing Authority will manage the property once the units are up and running. Supportive services will be provided by the VA.

The roughly $40 million project is being financed by a variety of sources, including low-income housing tax credits, federal and state historic tax credits.

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Alex Zank, former BizTimes Milwaukee reporter.

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