RACINE — St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church, which has a long history of working to create affordable housing in the city, is planning what would be its biggest project yet: the 63-unit, $14 million St. Paul Commons.

Through St. Paul Community and Economic Development Corp., the church is working in partnership with Brinshore Development of Northbrook, Ill., on the multifamily housing project. St. Paul Commons would have a total of 63 two- and three-bedroom apartments.

The complex would consist of a two-story townhome structure on the south side of Carroll Street and a four-story multifamily structure on the north side of that street, just west of Center Street. The church, at 1120 Grand Ave., owns the future building site.

The city’s Loan Board of Review recently recommended, and the City Council approved, a $350,000 community development block grant loan to Brinshore for St. Paul Commons. The money would actually be made available if and when the rest of the financing is in place.

“We’re committed to affordable housing,” said Bishop Lawrence Kirby of St. Paul, a congregation founded in 1857. The biggest example so far was building the 36-unit St. Paul Gardens Apartments, 1120 Center St., in 1991 and 1992.

Transformational plans

Kirby said that in 1981, the Carroll Street area was the most blighted one in Racine. Only two of about 25 houses were owner-occupied.

But over about three to five years in the late 1990s, St. Paul bought and razed all of those properties, which included a few on Center Street “because we’re committed to staying in the neighborhood,” Kirby said, adding that the church building has been in the neighborhood since 1880.

Those acquisitions and demolition created a buildable area; the church now owns all of Carroll Street except for Wisconsin Plating Works, at the west end of that block at 931 Carroll St.

Knowing of St. Paul’s history of housing development, Brinshore contacted the church about three to four years ago, Kirby said. The coming of Foxconn adds more impetus to build St. Paul Commons, he added.

To help finance the project, the developers will apply for low-income tax credits from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority. If those credits and full financing are secured — WHEDA makes those announcements in April — St. Paul Commons would consist of market-rate and subsidized apartment units at 30, 50, 60 and 80 percent of the local average median income.

Fourteen units are expected to be set aside for veterans.

The city’s promise to provide a $350,000 CDBG loan for the project, for 20 years at 1 percent interest, fell short of Brinshore’s $600,000 request. However, Kirby said, “we will be able to put together the budget.”

He aims for a construction start mid-next year and an opening of St. Paul Commons in 2020.

Note: The Journal Times was originally provided the project estimate of $13 million, but the more accurate number is $14 million. The story has been adjusted to reflect that.

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Michael "Mick" Burke covers business and the Village of Sturtevant. He is the proud father of two daughters and owner of a fantastic, although rug-chewing, German shepherd dog.

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