By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Affordable housing. That is the response a majority of Milwaukee residents give when asked what they would like to see in Milwaukee. Affordable housing goes beyond having a place to sleep and eat. With affordable housing, a community can thrive and that is something Milwaukeeans have been trying to do for years.
Earlier this week, Mayor Tom Barrett announced the allocation of the Community Block Grant Funds. About $5.6 million was distributed in total. Street Prostitution Partner Patrol, Milwaukee Promise, Office of African American Affairs and the Youth Council were among some of the groups to receive funding.
Several of the organizations listed such as Impact Seven, Dominican Center for Women and Community Advocates have an emphasis on housing. Split among them, the groups received $3.9 million total.
“One of the demands we have heard countless times over the past month is that we need more investments in housing,” Barrett said. “I hear those pleas; I hear those demands and I agree we need to do more.”
The press conference took place within the 30th Street Corridor where a new development is taking place. Known as Community Within the Corridor, the development will inhabit the space of the former Briggs & Stratton building.
Que El-Almin, the owner and developer of Scott Crawford, Inc., is the lead developer on the project. He said the building will have 197 affordable housing units and include supportive services for the community such as a laundromat, a daycare center, a creative corridor and more.
Barrett said the project will receive a million dollars from the Community Development Block Grants but will cost about $60 million in total.
He added that a lot of the problems in Milwaukee are “macro problems” but they have “micro solutions” and affordable and decent housing is one such solution. Milwaukee isn’t reaching its potential if neighborhoods are constantly being ignored when it comes to investment, that’s why it’s important to invest in these projects, he said.
The 30th Street Corridor was brimming with family supporting jobs at one point, Barrett said. Although, the Briggs & Stratton building has been vacant for years, it still has good bones.
An investment in housing improves the quality of life, he said. Additionally, the project will create jobs.
Steven Mahan, the director of Community Development Grants administration, said that the grant is helping the project move forward and called it one of the biggest developments in the area.
In addition to the housing units, there will also be a creative corridor.
Rayhainio Boynes of Sharp Creatives noted that the creative corridor is all about retaining Milwaukee’s homegrown talent. Often, talented Milwaukeeans leave the city to go to bigger cities, but Boynes wants a place where creatives can thrive.
“We want it to be a hub, an ecosystem, where our homegrown talent can tap into and get connected to some of the resources, they need in order to thrive and grow,” he said.
It’s about changing the narrative that Milwaukee lacks resources and opportunities, he added.
The Community Within the Corridor project has been in the works for the past four years, and El-Amin said the plan is to break ground in November of this year. Completion is set for March 2022.