It had definitely seen better days by 2019 when Jeffers outlined his vision of turning the old complex into a mixed-use site, starting at the residential end.
“We really had to take this one apart and kind of put it back together,” he said.
Two years later, the first phase is nearly done and the second is underway.
“I think we can say this now, that we’re kind of on the tail end of the project, this was probably one of the most intensive, reconstructive surgery, rehabilitations of a building that I think we’ve ever done,” Jeffers said.
These words carry weight in consideration of the projects Jeffers & Company have been involved with, including the Gold Medal Lofts in Racine and several historical redevelopments in Milwaukee.
Jeffers’ remarks were made at a groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday at the Horlick Malted Milk Complex where the companies involved, city representatives, and stakeholders gathered to officially kick-off phase II of the development of the site.
“We’re really excited now to be kicking off the groundbreaking for the building behind me at 2200 Northwestern Avenue,” Jeffers said. “This has always been the building that was sort of the inspiration for us to acquire the properties.”
Phase I was the redevelopment of the building at 2100 Northwestern Avenue, usually called the “2100 Building.” Construction began in August 2020 and is almost complete. Jeffers said he anticipates they’ll start leasing apartments in June.
Phase I is expected to result in 80 apartments priced in the affordable range.
Phase II is the development of the building at 2200 Northwestern Avenue, called the “2200 Building” for now.
This is the clock tower building, which was the headquarters of Horlick Malted Milk. Jeffers said the intention is to have the clock working again as part of the project.
The development will consist of 60 market-rate apartments — so a little more high-end. It will take an estimated 11 months to develop phase II.
J. Jeffers & Company owns nine of the 17 buildings located on the 12.7-acre complex grounds.
Mayor Cory Mason on Tuesday praised the project as representing the values of Racine: Redevelopment of history, reducing the carbon footprint, putting the people of Racine to work.
The mix of affordable and market-rate apartment was praised by city representatives, including the City Council President John Tate II.
“Racine isn’t just a community of rich folks and poor folks,” he said. “Racine is a community of people from all walks of life and every single one of them should have the opportunity to live in safe, inclusive and affordable homes.”
Historic tax credits
Four buildings on the Horlick Malted Milk Complex are on the National Register of Historic Places. As such, the project was partially funded with state and federal tax credits.
Jen Davel, of the Heritage Consulting Group, explained her firm is a nationwide consulting business that assists developers and building owners with the historic preservation tax credit program, so they can obtain federal and state tax credits for these projects.
She explained they help the developers find the appropriate treatments, so they can receive their tax credits.
Treatments are standards for historic buildings, developed by the Department of the Interior.
“That’s what has to be followed to get these tax credits,” Davel said. “So when we say treatments, for example, if the original wood floors are there, and they’re in good shape, we want them to keep the wood floors.
Jeffers took the opportunity to thank city leadership “for taking a little bit of a leap with us and kicking off this project last year.”
He added that he spent some time “describing to them what the vision was to redevelop and revitalize the neighborhood.” City leaders say that vision and believed in it, Jeffers said: “We at J. Jeffers appreciate that trust.”
The cities of Racine and Kenosha are set to receive about $4 million, and are among 11 communities in Wisconsin that will benefit from a $5 billion federal grant program, intended to expand affordable housing opportunities and services.
The 2200 Building was used as the original Horlick headquarters office building and features a no-longer-operational clock tower, seen behind the tree at left of this photo. Phase II of the Horlick project includes the renovation of the building into market-rate apartments that may include repairing the clock.