An affordable apartment development with a commercial-grade kitchen to help launch new food businesses is hoping for a spring construction start now that’s securing additional public funding.
The 2,500-square-foot Riverwest Food Accelerator would be developed on East North Avenue, just across North Commerce Street from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s RiverView Residence Hall. It would be on the ground floor of a four-story, 91-unit affordable apartment building.
The accelerator will host food-oriented activities — recognizing the neighborhood’s need for access to healthy foods and food education.
Developers General Capital Group and KG Development Group LLC announced their plans two years ago, with the project later securing federal affordable housing tax credits.
Developers who receive tax credits must generally provide at least 85% of a building’s apartments at below-market rents to people earning no higher than 60% of the local median income. Those credits are sold to generate cash, with the developers securing commercial loans and other funds to complete their financing packages.
But the Riverwest development, like many others throughout Wisconsin, has been delayed because it needs more funding as inflation drives up construction costs − and as interest rates on commercial loans increase.
The project recently got some good news with Milwaukee’s Housing Trust Fund set to provide $1 million for the $26.7 million development.
That grant requires Common Council approval, with the council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee to review the trust fund recommendations at its Tuesday meeting.
“We are working on filling the remaining financing gap and are optimistic now that we are that much closer,” Linda Gorens-Levey, a General Capital partner, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
A spring construction start would result in the food accelerator and apartments being completed by roughly late summer or early fall of 2024, said David Weiss, a General Capital partner.
Along with helping launch food-oriented businesses, the accelerator will also provide cooking classes for residents and other community residents.
Milwaukee’s Housing Trust Fund Advisory Board is recommending $8.8 million for 12 projects − leveraging more than $121 million in local construction and rehabilitation work over the next year, said Ald. Michael Murphy, advisory board chair. The grants are coming from $10 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding.
The largest grant, $1.5 million, would be provided for the 93-unit King Library Apartments, in the 2900 block of North King Drive. That $32.2 million development, which is being done by General Capital and Emem Group LLC, includes replacing the current King Library with a new library branch.
Also, Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity, Revitalize Milwaukee and ACTS Housing, which would each receive $1.25 million for their work on buying and renovating homes for people with low incomes.
Other recommended grants include $783,765 to Movin’ Out Inc. and Rule Enterprises for a $21.4 million, 79-unit apartment building under construction at 1887 N. Water St.; $500,000 to KG Development LLC for its planned $6.6 million rehabilitation of a 40-unit building at 2436 N. 50th St., and $500,000 for the $13.4 million Bronzeville Creative Arts and Technology Hub, featuring 54 apartments and production space for filmmakers, musicians and other creatives that Fit Investment Group LLC and Cinnaire Solutions Corp. plan to develop north of West North Avenue and west of North Sixth Street.
“The Housing Trust Fund has made a significant difference for Milwaukee families and neighborhoods, by making supportive housing, home ownership and rental housing more affordable for people who want to live here,” Murphy said, in a statement.