Community can benefit from MPS decision on Malcolm X Complex

By Lynda L. Jones

Malcolm X Academy Complex located on the corner of N. 1st and E. Center Streets.

The heart of Milwaukee’s African American Community stands to benefit from this week’s vote by MPS Board of Directors to sell the Malcolm X Complex to 2760 Holdings, LLC.

This decision was the first step in the process of the building being renovated into a space the entire community will benefit from.

This vote authorizes the administration to request the City of Milwaukee to sell the building to 2760 Holdings, LLC. MPS buildings are owned by the City of Milwaukee, so the sale must be approved by the Milwaukee Common Council.

The building is being sold to 2760 Holdings, LLC for the purchase price of $2.1 million.

There is an option for Milwaukee Public Schools to lease back any space used for MPS educational purposes.

The sale marks the completion of a multi-year process that will result in a multi-purpose facility that includes an MPS school.

2760 Holdings, LLC, will make significant improvements to the 50-plus-yearold building to prepare it to be reopened as a community center and school.

MPS estimates the cost of those improvements to be, at minimum, $4.2 million, approximately matching the lease payments MPS would make over 50 months for the educational portion of the building.

2760 Holdings’ payment of the sale price of $2.1 million makes the deal a “break-even” one for the district because MPS ultimately reimburses the improvement for the educational portion while having the option to repurchase the facility. In the end, taxpayers and the community benefit because the community receives an upgraded, 21st-century facility for a community center and school.

Contrary to statements made by lawmakers, 2760 Holdings, LLC is not a ‘flyby- night’ organization.

As is typical in commercial real estate developments, when partners from different organizations come together, they create a separate LLC to work on the project.

Principals of 2760 Holdings, LLC, include James Phelps, whose work has included renovations at the Medical College of Wisconsin, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and the YWCA – and Dennis Klein, chairman of KBS, who has been involved in substantial construction and development projects including three mixed-use University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee properties, two new facilities for Marquette University, major new Milwaukee hotels Aloft and Marriott, and the redevelopment of Capitol Court into Midtown Center.

In August 2012, the Board of School Directors authorized the administration to explore the option of community centers for several unused Milwaukee Public Schools buildings.

The University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee School of Architecture and Urban Planning sponsored a design event this summer for the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive Economic Development Corp. where use for of the former Malcolm X building as a community center was affirmed.

The claim by supporters of the legislation that the agreement with 2760 Holdings was “thrown together” isn’t supported by the facts. In August 2012, the Board of School Directors began discussion of turning unused former school buildings into community resource centers.

The process specific to converting Malcolm X began in May and included a number of public hearings.

However, the legislation to strip MPS and the city of Milwaukee of their control over local school facilities was introduced less than two weeks ago.

Despite the continued criticism from parties that wanted St. Marcus Lutheran School to purchase the property, Milwaukee Public Schools has offered three other facilities to St. Marcus Lutheran School – all of which are in the neighborhoods where many St. Marcus students live and two of which are in close proximity to St. Marcus’ existing site – but St. Marcus leaders rejected those sites.

MPS remains open to discussing available sites with St. Marcus.

Alderwoman Milele Coggs, where the Malcolm X Complex is located introduced the resolution to proceed with the sell to the Milwaukee Common Council this week.