THE BUILDING’S HISTORY | THE HARAMBEE NEIGHBORHOOD
THE BUILDING’S HISTORY
THE HARAMBEE NEIGHBORHOOD
The six-story building now known as Welford Sanders Historic Lofts & Enterprise Center was built in 1915 as the Nunn Bush Shoe Company.
Nunn Bush Shoe Company grew to become the second largest manufacturer of high-end men’s shoes in the country and was also known for its progressive labor practices. These practices included profit sharing, employee involvement in factory decisions and pay, and a well-designed cafeteria and recreation hall at the top of the building.
That commitment to progressivism lives on in Welford Sanders Historic Lofts & Enterprise Center with high-quality affordable housing, and business office offerings, which include entrepreneur-friendly amenities, and ease of use for small businesses and service organizations.
Tax Credits and Project Financing
The securing of federal and state historic, along with the federal affordable tax credits were necessary in structuring the complex financing stack. These commitments were mainly possible through three State of Wisconsin agencies. The Wisconsin State Historical Society, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), and Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) made significant financial and staff time commitments. Through the sale of these indispensable tax credits, the development has raised $14 million in private sector investment dollars ($8.0 million through federal and state historic tax credits and $6 million through affordable housing tax credits). The State of Wisconsin through WHEDA has also provided $4 million in long-term debt financing as well as, nearly $15 Million in Construction Financing. The City of Milwaukee has also provided a much needed $1.2 million developer funded TIF, and a $550,000 federal HOME grant.
The Welford Sanders Lofts is a $21 million historic renovation of an underutilized and deteriorating 190,000 sf industrial historic building built in 1916 as a Nunn Bush shoe factory. It is located at 2821 N. 4th St., Milwaukee, WI. The development is now named in memory of long-time Martin Luther King Economic Development Corporation (“MLKEDC”) Executive Director, Welford Sanders who passed away unexpectedly in May 2015. The building has already secured Part I and Part II approvals for Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits. The building’s construction started in February 2017, and will be complete in March 2018. The project is a joint venture between MLKEDC and Wisconsin Redevelopment. The successful renovation of this historic building is critical to the ongoing stability and revitalization of this neighborhood, which has already benefited from the work of this team in the four previous development phases. The property was also once a Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC) small business incubator. The proposed redevelopment will renovate approximately 38,000 sf of office space, which will be leased to current tenants of the building who are involved in eliminating barriers to employment with collaborative job training and other supportive services for unemployed and hard-to-employ Milwaukee residents. The Welford Sanders Lofts will also function as a “walk-to-work” environment by creating 59 housing units with indoor parking and other exceptional amenities for the residents. Finally, as part of this effort a life-size statue of Welford Sanders will be commissioned commemorating his significant contributions to this neighborhood.
Project Significance, Jobs, and Job Center
This building is the neighborhood’s largest structure, and it has great historic significance, however, it was quickly deteriorating and becoming a blighting influence. With the renovation now underway, the Welford Sanders Lofts will be transformed into a mixed-use development job center including a much-needed housing option currently not available in this neighborhood. The completed project will build off other neighborhood development activities, which have occurred over the past 10 years. The Welford Sanders Lofts is expected to average 70 full-time construction jobs monthly for over a one-year construction period at family-supporting wages. The development team will exceed the City of Milwaukee and WHEDA’s required SBE participation level including the construction’s labor force using 40% locally underemployed or unemployed workers. Additionally, the Welford Sanders Lofts will create and/or support permanent jobs in an area of Milwaukee’s greatest need. The project is conveniently situated on a city bus route with 38,000 sf of office and light manufacturing space that has the potential to support and train hundreds of underemployed or unemployed individuals with permanent jobs. An “employment partnership” has been developed with the like-minded agencies currently located within the building that want to expand their collaborative efforts to address barriers to employment, and help area residents achieve self-sufficiency through sustainable employment. These agencies include Milwaukee Job Works, the Alma Center, and Project Return. The remaining commercial office rents will be priced to further enhance needed services to area residents.