Downtown housing projects remain popular

Posted on Mar 20, 2019 :: Insight on Business, Web Exclusive.
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Living downtown is a growing trend across the Midwest and one that cities in Northeast Wisconsin can tap into, according to Jim Kumon, an urban designer and neighborhood advocate with the Minneapolis-based Incremental Development Alliance. He spoke to more than 350 people at Tuesday’s 10th annual InDevelopment conference in Appleton.

“Walkable real estate is in big demand and there’s not enough supply for the demand,” Kumon said. “Cities here in Northeast Wisconsin stand to benefit by adding housing. If you have some basic amenities that people are looking for, the demand will really grow.”

Demand for rental housing has grown, but its challenging to get that housing built, Kumon said. “By 2030, 83 percent of the households will not have children, but the housing stock out there and the housing being built is not suited for them,” he said. “There’s no incentive to build smaller homes since construction companies make more by building bigger.”

Multifamily housing projects are not always the easiest projects to get approved, Kumon continued. “People hear that word and immediately think of ‘apartments in disrepair,’ but there are a lot of ways you can do multifamily housing. We used to build buildings where you didn’t even know how many units were inside of it,” he said.

The City of Appleton — which hosted this year’s conference at the Red Lion Hotel Paper Valley — has several downtown multifamily housing and mixed-use projects in the works, said Karen Harkness, director of community and economic development for the city.

After Kumon’s presentation, Harkness delivered a developer talk about downtown Appleton projects and Shane Wheeler of CLA discussed opportunity zones.

In addition to housing planned as part of the new library project, the Zuelke building is being redeveloped into a mix of housing, office and retail space and the former Gabriel Furniture store will become Gabriel Lofts, which will have retail space on the ground floor and housing above.

The Gabriel Lofts project is being led by Dan Klister, Jack Klister and Tom Klister of FORE Development & Investment Group. The brothers plan to redevelop the historic building at the corner of College Avenue and Morrison Street and then raze two buildings next door to make way for 21 apartments on the second and third floor and 7,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor.

InDevelopment attendees network and have time to look at various economic and commercial development projects from the region.

Mixed-use projects are popular with developers, Harkness said.

“Buildings with multiple uses are destinations and will bring people in, plus they have multiple income streams,” she said.

In addition to the presentations, InDevelopment included a networking reception with economic development leaders from across the New North, who shared information about their projects and plans.