RACINE — After two years spent securing financing and approvals, on Monday golden shovels dug in at the site of the Gold Medal Lofts, an $18 million affordable housing project planned for the city’s Uptown area.

Josh Jeffers, president and CEO of Milwaukee-based J. Jeffers and Co., the lead developer on the project at 1701 Packard Ave., said company officials expect to close on financing next week, start reconstruction and plan to start leasing units by the summer and fall of 2020.

“We are all very proud to bring 77 units of high quality, affordable rental housing to Racine’s Uptown neighborhood,” said Jeffers. “We fully intend for the reimagined historic building to stand as a statement of our confidence in the bright future of Racine while also acknowledging the city’s rich commercial and cultural history.”

Ivan Gamboa, chairman of the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority, announced WHEDA had approved $955,769 over 10 years in tax credits for the project.

“It’s truly only the best of the best projects that receive the tax credit awards, and when we award the credits, we award them to the project that adds the most to the community,” said Gamboa. “Gold Medal Lofts is definitely deserving of the tax credits that will enhance the neighborhood and significantly impact the community.”

The city is providing about $1.54 million in community development block grant loans (1 percent interest over 20 years) and a $300,000 HOME loan; the city Redevelopment Authority approved a request to waive $27,000 in residential equivalent charge fees.

Affordable housing

The mixed-income project is planned to include market-rate units, as well as units for households with an average income of no more than 60%, 50%, and 30% of county median income.

Alderman John Tate II of the 3rd District, where the lofts are located, said with the rising economy there’s concern in his district — which is made up of about 50% renters — that the project could, as a source of housing stability, shut out some a the lower end of the market.

“People can easily get displaced when a landlord chooses to sell their home to another homeowner — which is what we want, we want homeowners,” said Tate. “But we also don’t want to see people displaced because of a rising economy. We want to see all boats lifted by that rising tide.”

Tate and Gamboa noted the significance of the 23 three-bedroom units, which will be able to accommodate families.

“That is exactly what this community needs, and I’m so glad to see it happening right in my district right at a time when we’re needing it most in the City of Racine,” said Tate.

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J. Jeffers’ partner on the Gold Medal Lofts is Lutheran Social Services. LSS Vice President Dennis Hanson said that once the project is completed, they’ll have a service coordinator on-site to help all residents, low-income or not.

“We’ve certainly been aware of the need for quality affordable rental housing in the Racine market for a number of years,” said Hanson. “We couldn’t be more excited to be part of that solution.”

Reviving a landmark

Mayor Cory Mason said that at the last event announcing the project, Alderman Mary Land of the 11th District told him that she used to work at the Gold Medal Camp Furniture Manufacturing Co.; he added that he looked forward to having the historic building brought back to life.

“This is a place where people came to work. This is a place that help stabilized this neighborhood and the middle class in this area,” said Mason. “Now I’m very excited to say that it’ll see new life as a residential facility.”

Jeffers said the materials selected for the project have been approved by the Wisconsin State Historic Preservation Office and the name, Gold Medal Lofts, is an homage to the building’s original purpose.

“The reimagined building’s design is very intentional, blending historic and modern elements,” said Jeffers.

After the ceremonial digging in of shovels to mark the start of the project, the crowd was encouraged to walk around the inside of the building.

“This project will bring back to life this beautiful building,” said Mason. “You look at this building and you’re reminded that they just don’t build buildings like this anymore and we should do everything we can to help preserve them.”

Jeffers said people can check updates on their project on their website, www.jjeffers.com/properties-2, and at the company’s Facebook page.

“This is a place where people came to work. This is a place that help stabilized this neighborhood and the middle class in this area. Now I’m very excited to say that it’ll see new life as a residential facility.” Mayor Cory Mason, speaking about the Gold Medal Lofts building in Uptown

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Christina Lieffring covers the City of Racine and the City of Burlington and is a not-bad photographer. In her spare time she tries to keep her plants and guinea pigs alive and happy.

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