Commission OKs converting 2 schools to apartments
Developments likely to create 100 units; council needs to approve zoning
The proposed conversion of two historic Milwaukee schools into apartments for seniors and families has received Plan Commission zoning approval.
The two developments, at the former Phillis Wheatley Elementary School, 2442 N. 20th St., and the former 37th Street Elementary School, 1715 N. 37th St., together would likely create around 100 apartments on the city’s north side.
Both developments will need Common Council zoning approval.
Also, the sale of the Phillis Wheatley building will need council approval.
The council, at its Nov. 7 meeting, approved the sale of the 37th Street building for $210,000 to Chicago-based Heartland Housing.
Heartland plans to create around 50 senior apartments in the school building and around 10 townhouses for families that would be built behind the school.
Heartland’s plans include creating community space in the former gymnasium, as well as a community garden. Its development partner is Community First, a neighborhood improvement organization.
The school’s historic features would be restored with cash from state and federal historic preservation tax credits. Heartland also is seeking affordable housing tax credits, which are provided through an annual competition.
If Heartland obtains the credits next spring, it would likely complete its purchase of the school by the end of 2018 and begin renovations shortly afterward, said Matt Melendes, Heartland’s associate director of real estate development.
The Phillis Wheatley building has received four separate purchase offers from affordable apartment developers, said Rhonda Szallai, of the Department of City Development.
Department officials hope to recommend a proposal this week for the Common Council to review, she said.
Szallai didn’t provide any details on those proposals. But three other former Milwaukee schools that have been renovated into apartments have 30 to 68 units.
Both projects, as well as a separate hotel development plan, are proceeding after the July expiration of a state law requiring vacant Milwaukee Public Schools buildings be sold only to “educational operators” — mainly Milwaukee Parental Choice voucher schools.
The former 37th Street Elementary School is one of two former schools on Milwaukee's north side that are being proposed for conversion to apartments.