A development that combines about 90 affordable apartments with a center that provides cooking classes, urban farming and food entrepreneurship services is being proposed for a high-profile location in Riverwest.
The mixed-use project would “create a new neighborhood hub to bridge the connections among poverty, housing and health,” according to a Department of City Development report.
General Capital Group LLP and KG Development Group LLC want to develop the project in the 1100 block of East North Avenue, just west of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s RiverView Residence Hall.
That 1.8-acre site includes a vacant, city-owned lot at 1136-46 E. North Ave.
The Common Council’s Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee on Tuesday voted to recommend granting an exclusive right to the developers to negotiate a purchase of the city lot. It was listed for sale at $750,000, with the city receiving five other development proposals for the site.
The project’s focus would be the Riverwest Food Accelerator.
It would feature “a highly visible demonstration kitchen and education space with a focus on fresh food, cooking, nutrition education and food-oriented entrepreneurship,” the report said.
It would be used by local residents “to learn cooking skills, develop products and potentially bring them to market,” it said.
There also would be a community garden, said Anthony Kazee, who operates KG Development Group.
Programs would include free cooking and nutrition classes in partnership with the Riverwest Food Pantry; urban agriculture demonstration projects sponsored by Teens Grow Greens; satellite culinary classes offered by MKE Food School and Milwaukee Area Technical College, and reduced cost commercial kitchen time.
The idea is to work with existing groups to provide a new resource for the neighborhood, rather than duplicating those efforts, according to the developers.
The food accelerator would be on the ground floor of a four-story building, with 91 apartments on the upper floors, Kazee told committee members.
Most of the apartments would have two to three bedrooms and would be targeted to lower-income families with children.
Those would include supportive housing units that serve at-risk households with special needs.
General Capital and KG Development will seek federal and state affordable housing tax credits to help finance the development.
The tax credits are usually sold to raise cash, with developers seeking bank loans and other funding sources to complete their financing packages.
Developers that 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.
The credits are provided through an annual competition, with credit awards typically announced each spring by the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority.
Those affordable apartments would be welcome for Riverwest and the nearby east side, said Ald. Nik Kovac, whose district includes the site.
Action on other affordable apartment plans
The zoning committee acted on three other affordable apartments proposals by recommending:
• Rezoning a site totaling 10 acres, at 123 and 147 E. Becher St., so the former Harbor District industrial site could be redeveloped into 311 apartments — including around 200 affordable units.
Bear Development LLC plans to do the project if it obtains affordable housing tax credits, historic preservation tax credits and other financing.
• An exclusive right to negotiate the purchase of the Martin Luther King Milwaukee Public Library, 310 W. Locust St.; a vacant lot at 2971-75 N. King Drive, and a vacant mixed-use building, at 2977-79 N. King Drive. Those properties are to sell for $1 each.
General Capital and Emem Group LLC, led by Michael Emem, want to replace the library with a four-story building. It would feature a new King Library and retail space on the first floor, and around 44 apartments on the three upper floors.
The plans also call for a five-story, 42-unit apartment building at the block’s other end, at the southwest corner of North King Drive and West Chambers Street. The developers are seeking affordable housing tax credits and other financing sources.
• Selling 12 city-owned vacant lots, four single-family homes and three duplexes for $1 each in the Harambee neighborhood to Maures Development Group LLC, led by Melissa Allen.
That firm plans to build new houses and duplexes for rent, and renovate the dilapidated existing houses and duplexes, if it obtains affordable housing tax credits and other financing. The project would create around 30 affordable housing units primarily on North Fifth, Sixth and Seventh streets, between West North Avenue and West Chambers Street.