$24.6 million Bronzeville redevelopment to receive Milwaukee cleanup loan

The city of Milwaukee’s support for a Bronzeville redevelopment with affordable apartments and a creative business hub will also include a $700,000 site cleanup loan.

That $24.6 million project is among several pending along West North Avenue in the Bronzeville neighborhood north of downtown, where city officials are encouraging new investments. This project would be built on city land, with a budget that includes money from the city’s Housing Trust Fund and the cleanup loan that was unanimously approved Thursday by Milwaukee’s Redevelopment Authority.

Led by FIT Investment Group of Milwaukee, the project has 60 apartments, 48 of which would be reserved for low-income residents. A Creative Arts and Technology Hub would fill 21,400 square feet on the ground floor, with shared facilities for entrepreneurs in music, film or digital arts, for example.

That “creative incubator” would offer facilities at monthly rents in the hundreds of dollars, said Michael Adetoro, leader of FIT Investment Group LLC. That programming, he said, would help the development’s ground floor remain active and avoid creating a vacant commercial space in the Bronzeville area, he said.

“This is really a community of folks who really want to be together because they are kind of in the same industry, there are opportunities within film and music production, music education,” Adetoro said.

Adetoro is consulting with 2112 Chicago, a firm that operates a similar facility with more than 100 members. In Chicago, the 2112 facility offers memberships between $70 and $450 a month that include office and event spaces, conference rooms, discounted use of studio spaces for film, video, music, photography and special events.

The project plan in Bronzeville also includes some market-rate, live-work apartments that have commercial spaces facing North Avenue. Adetoro equated those to historic two-story buildings with a storefront on the sidewalk and a home for the business owner on the second floor.

“It’s kind of the same idea on a smaller scope, where you have a tenant who primarily lives upstairs, maybe in the back, and the front portion of it is basically just a box where they can operate their business,” he said. “If you have housing and retail, you know it’s not going to be vacant because the housing is there. It’s affordable, it’s flexible, so the residents can provide their services.”

FIT Investment is working to close on the project financing in April, which would mean completion and opening of the buildings by September 2025. The financing package will include low-income housing tax credits.

The new buildings are planned for city-owned properties between Sixth and Seventh streets on North Avenue. There is contamination on the property that must be dealt with in order for the project to advance. That cleanup of the 1.12 acre site could include excavation and removal of contaminated soil and capping remaining contamination with buildings, parking lots or clean soil.

The city would provide a cleanup loan of up to $700,000 to the project with a 19-year term and 3.5% interest rate. That money comes from a Milwaukee revolving loan fund that since 2002 has secured $13.2 million in federal Environmental Protection Agency awards and has helped finance the cleanup of 280 acres.


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