Urban League project brings life to Metcalfe Park area

When the new 80-unit Dr. Wesley L. Scott Senior Living Community is dedicated Monday, it will bring to the densely populated, high-poverty block surrounding it amenities rarely seen in Metcalfe Park.

The complex, 2800 W. Wright St., will sport an atrium-style common area, a chapel, a small library and a gymnasium. A hair-care facility and underground parking will be available to residents.

When officials and community leaders gather to lay a cornerstone dedicated to Scott, the Milwaukee Urban League’s former executive director, it will bring together something much more significant for Metcalfe Park: another chance for real neighborhood renewal.

The senior living community will be completed by September, bringing to fruition two years of planning.

For Metcalfe Park, it will represent the second significant construction in as many years in the area around the former Master Lock plant at 2600 N. 32nd St., where most of Metcalfe Park’s business development and housing has been concentrated over the past decade and a half.

For the Urban League, the Scott Senior Living Community will represent the commitment of the venerable equal rights organization to leaving something tangible behind in the building when the organization moved to new headquarters this year.

Such a project was something Scott, who died in May 2005, had in mind when he led the league for more than 20 years, said Ralph Hollmon, president and chief executive officer of the Milwaukee Urban League.

Like the Next Door Foundation – which recently expanded its facilities, at 2945 N. 29th St., with a $9.3 million capital improvement project – the senior living community is viewed as a catalyst for other area housing opportunities and residents’ involvement on development projects.

“Our project, in conjunction with the major state-of-the art early childhood development center that the Next Door Foundation has built, really is going to be the catalyst to help redevelopment and stabilize that part of Metcalfe Park,” Hollmon said. “This is a chance to begin turning things around.”

A number of sources came together to make the community living complex successful, according to Gorman & Co., the Madison-based developer that helped spearhead the project.

Alliant Capital contributed money in exchange for tax credit benefits, which were administered by the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority.

The equity generated from the tax credits came to $7.2 million.

The old Urban League headquarters, built in 1911 in three stages as the Kilbourn exchange for the Wisconsin Telephone Co., qualified for $350,000 in historic tax credits. A housing grant from the Federal Home Loan Banks through JPMorgan Chase added another $350,000 to the financing package.

The city’s block grant office contributed $275,000 in a home loan, which was approved Wednesday by the Common Council, and a conventional home mortgage of $2.3 million was provided by JPMorgan Chase.

Most significantly, the project offers a neighborhood with high unemployment a chance at work. Shaleta Dunn, coordinator of the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority’s emerging business program, said there was 52% participation by emerging area businesses on the project and 20 neighborhood residents participating in the construction.

Much of the project still is under construction, but crews are working on renovating the third floor of the old league building, said Christopher Laurent, a Gorman senior development manager.

Sixty-four apartments will be part of the new building being built on the parking lot of the old Milwaukee Urban League’s headquarters, and 16 apartments will be built inside the league’s former offices.

Seventy-four units will be designated as affordable living. Rents will range from $483 to $600 for one-bedroom units and from $607 to $800 for the two-bedroom units.