Adaptive reuse of historic buildings is a major force behind equitable real estate development. The Community Within the Corridor project in Milwaukee exemplifies this force through the rehabilitation of a former industrial site into affordable housing, community amenities, and commercial space.
Three developers, Que El-Amin, Rayhainio Bines, Mikal Wesley are leading the effort to get this project completed after 5-years of working to get it off the ground. Their plan is to transform 6 vacant buildings into 197 units of housing. The 300,000 sq ft project will feature 35,000 sq ft of community service facilities and 25,000 sq ft of recreational space. An onsite laundromat and New Horizon daycare center will complement the housing to address the needs of the residents.
The project, currently underway, officially broke ground on June 18th at a ceremony that attracted hundreds of community members, public officials, and project team members. The project signifies a major investment into the Metcalfe Park Neighborhood of Milwaukee along the 30th Street industrial corridor. Historically, the buildings were a part of a Briggs & Stratton industrial complex. Originally constructed in the early 1900s, Briggs & Stratton purchased the buildings in the 1936 and began manufacturing gasoline-powered small engines. Their success at this location allowed them to become one the largest manufacturers of lawn and garden equipment and air-cooled gasoline-engines in the world. While the buildings once drove the commercial activity in the neighborhood, they have been vacant since the 1980s.
The project is located on the north side of Milwaukee, an area that experienced notably less investment throughout its history. “This was just an area I felt that needed some love and attention and transformation,” said Rayhainio Boynes, “This is where we can thrive, this is where I can go to Black-owned stores up and down Center Street and really start pushing the economy in the area. So, I want our young generation to know that this is for them.” The corridor offers many opportunities for redevelopment and has been a focus of local, state, and federal partners since the 1990s for brownfield remediation and redevelopment. The Community within the Corridor project is the first major redevelopment in the former industrial corridor.
Old buildings offer great opportunities for this type of reuse, especially with the financing available through federal and state historic tax credits. The complex was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in March 2020, making it eligible to receive federal and state historic tax credits. These credits are coupled easily with the 4% Low Income Housing Tax Credit from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority.
On top of that, the city of Milwaukee approved a TIF (tax increment financing) district as well as awarded HOME Funds through a HUD program designed to help create affordable housing. The project received major support from its district alderman Russell Stamper and Mayor Tom Barrett, who both spoke at the June 18th groundbreaking. The $66 million project would not be possible with all of these layers of financing, and the investment will be worthwhile, as they anticipate over $100 million in economic impact to the community. Rethos is proud to play a small role in making efficient use of their Wisconsin state historic tax credits as a part of our Historic Rehabilitation Loan Program.
Congratulations to Scott Crawford, Inc, Roers Companies, Continuum Architects + Planners, and Greenfire Management for getting the project rolling. These vacant buildings will not only house community members, but also support their physical and emotional health without breaking their finances. Thanks to the hard work of the project team, the complex will return as a beacon for the community.