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A $16 million development is coming to Milwaukee's near west side — transforming a large, vacant building into a mix of uses that includes a commercial kitchen, business incubator and affordable apartments.
The four-story building, at the northwest corner of West Wells and North 27th streets, will be transformed into a community center known as Concordia 27.
That's according to a Wednesday announcement from officials including Gov. Tony Evers, who plans to invest $5 million, provided through federal American Rescue Plan Act fund, on the project.
That will allow Near West Side Partners Inc., a nonprofit group, to leverage an additional $5 million in private investment and enable construction work to begin immediately. Additional funds will come from other sources as that work progresses.
The project is to be completed by May 2023, said Rick Wiegand, who owns the building.
Concordia 27's development is being led by neighborhood residents and is being managed by Wiegand's firm, Wiegand Enterprises LLC; Near West Side Partners and project architect Quorum Architects.
Concordia 27 will help address six community inequities: housing insecurity, health disparities, trauma, food insecurity, unemployment and transportation access.
It will bring together service providers and resources to provide access to nutritious food, health and wellness services, job training, entrepreneurial space, housing and transportation.
That includes making daily fresh, affordable meals-to-go to address food insecurity for more than 1,000 residents, and nutritious school meals for more than 15,000 low-income students at 106 schools in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Racine and Kenosha counties.
Those will be provided through a commercial, demonstration and incubator kitchen operated by the nonprofit Milwaukee Center for Independence.
That group, based in the neighborhood at 2020 W. Wells St., already is contracted by schools to provide meals through commercial kitchens it operates. This will be an expansion of that work.
The center uses its kitchen to provide culinary workforce training for youth and adults with intellectual disabilities and previously incarcerated people.
The Concordia 27 kitchen also will host cooking demonstrations of healthy foods, and provide space for food business start-ups, said Heidi Chada, Milwaukee Center for Independence vice president.
In addition, Concordia 27 will provide space for a separate business incubator, along with makers space, operated by Fruition Milwaukee.
That new venture will be operated by Rachaad Howard, who also operates Cream City Print Lounge, a West Allis apparel print business.
Concordia 27 will include new offices for Near West Side Partners as well as a larger location for Scaling Wellness in Milwaukee, which provides wellness services.
Scaling Wellness in Milwaukee was launched by Marquette University President Mike Lovell and his wife, Amy, as a response to psychological trauma among people living in Milwaukee's central city. It's now based at the Ascension St. Joseph Hospital campus.
Finally, Concordia 27 will have 30 one- and two-bedroom affordable apartments for senior citizens and working families on the building's upper floors.
The building originally had around 30 apartments before it was sub-divided into 99 apartments decades ago, Wiegand told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Those units have been vacant for several years.
The new apartments will be supported in part through rental vouchers provided through the Milwaukee Housing Authority.
Concordia 27 also has convenient access to Milwaukee County Transit System’s future bus rapid transit service.
"By serving as a centralized hub of collaboration, innovation, and service, Concordia 27 is both uplifting the local business community and increasing the level of services available to individuals throughout the near west side and beyond," Evers told people gathered at the development site.
“Funding from Governor Evers will ensure the vision of near west side residents can come to life,” said Keith Stanley, executive director of Near West Side Partners.
However, Stanley told the group, "Additional funding is needed" — a statement he repeated for emphasis.
Concordia 27 is among a series of commercial developments planned for the west side of North 27th Street between West Wisconsin and West Kilbourn avenues.
Wiegand, whose neighborhood properties include the Ambassador Hotel, 2308 W. Wisconsin Ave., also is redeveloping the historic former Tower Theater, 757 N. 27th St., into a banquet facility for the Grand Avenue Suites.
But the Grand Avenue Suites development has been on hold as Wiegand waits for the hotel industry to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, Wiegand has long-range plans to convert a former hospital complex, with a five-story and nine-story building at 2711 W. Wells St., into 108 affordable apartments.
However, plans for a state office building, at the southwest corner of West Wisconsin Avenue and North 27th Street, remain on hold after the Republican-controlled state Legislature last year rejected Democrat Evers' proposed funding of the project in the 2021-'23 budget.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Development near west side features commercial kitchen, apartments