Food business incubator joins affordable apartments in North Avenue development plan

Developers gained their first approval this week toward buying a city of Milwaukee lot on East North Avenue to build new affordable apartments and an accelerator for local food businesses. 

The project is a partnership between Milwaukee minority-owned real estate firm KG Development Group, founded by Anthony Kazee, and General Capital Group LLC of Fox Point. The two are in talks to buy a city-owned lot at 1136 E. North Ave. to build 91 apartments, Kazee said. 

Those apartments would largely be reserved for low-income residents. With two and three bedrooms, they are intended for families, according to a city staff report on the proposal.

The building also would have a “Riverwest Food Accelerator” incubator for emerging food-based companies. That would be in a two-story space with a tall glass storefront to show off the kitchen equipment. The property would have community gardens where residents can learn to grow and cook healthy food, Kazee said. Riverwest Food Pantry supports the project.

The development team is among six who responded to a competitive city request for proposals for the land earlier this year, said Matt Haessly, real estate specialist in the Milwaukee Department of City Development. The companies would pay $750,000 for the site.

An agreement for the city to negotiate exclusively with KG Development and General Capital for the site gained unanimous endorsement Tuesday from Milwaukee’s Zoning, Neighborhoods and Development Committee, and now awaits final approval from the Common Council. The developers need that control over the property to apply in December for affordable housing tax credits to finance the project.

Milwaukee Ald. Nik Kovac said this was the first city request for proposals that specifically requested a project with affordable housing. He said constituents in his east side Common Council district have been asking for more affordable housing options.

“If we want to push affordability on the east side, it’s rare we have the leverage to do it,” he said. “In this case, we own the property.”

The developers are working with Engberg Anderson Architects of Milwaukee on the project design. Meetings are planned with the surrounding neighborhood to gather community input on the design concepts. 

Sean Ryan, Milwaukee Business Journal

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