After two failed attempts by others, a developer has overcome setbacks and is poised to get final city approvals for a $19.25 million, low-cost housing project with commercial space and parking for the long-blighted former Sentry grocery store site on the Far East Side.
The city’s Plan Commission on Monday will consider a conditional-use request from nonprofits Movin’ Out of Madison and Commonwealth Cos. of Fond du Lac for the four-story Ace Apartments and townhouses with 70 mostly low-cost housing units, 10,000 square feet of commercial space, and 101 parking spaces — 55 underground — at 4602 Cottage Grove Road.
It’s the final major approval needed to redevelop the prominent corner of Cottage Grove Road and Acewood Boulevard, considered a gateway to the Rolling Meadows neighborhood.
“We are thrilled,” Movin’ Out executive director Kathryne Auerback said. “Movin’ Out and Commonwealth were committed to hearing and addressing neighborhood input throughout the planning process. We have worked closely with them, their alder, and the city to create a wonderful project that will be a tremendous asset for the whole community.
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“The new apartments will also bring vibrancy to the site that has been just an empty, boarded-up building for many years,” she said.
The proposal is the third for the site since the Sentry store closed after four decades of operation amid growing competition in 2014.
The city rejected a proposal for a Kwik Trip and discouraged one for a UW Credit Union at the site. Both were one-story, single uses. The city’s own vision from 2017 shows a four-story, mixed-use building at the corner with parking behind it.
Movin’ Out-Commonwealth’s latest plans feature the four-story, L-shaped building with 59 housing units, six townhouses and commercial space at the corner, and five more townhouses in a separate structure at the rear of the site. The project includes indoor and outdoor children’s play areas, community and fitness rooms, and resident gardening space.
The project has been controversial, but updated plans that addressed neighborhood concerns seemed to shift some opinions at the last community meeting, said Ald. Lindsay Lemmer, 3rd District. Also, the developers met with police to review management and security plans and get feedback, she said.
“I am excited by the current iteration of the Ace Apartments proposal, which includes a mix of apartments for various income levels, including affordable units for people with disabilities, and commercial space for the organization Options in Community Living,” she said.
The project includes 14 units for those making less than 30% of Dane County’s median income, or $27,100 for a family of three, and targeted to households that include someone with a permanent disability or veteran; 32 units for those making up to 50% of the county median income, or $45,200 for that family; and 13 units for those making up to 60% of the county median income, or $54,240 for that family.
In April 2018, the city approved $1.1 million in funding to help the developers secure critical federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits through the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority. The county is contributing $650,000.
But in April 2019, the project narrowly missed getting the tax credits, leaving Movin’ Out-Commonwealth exploring options for next steps. Soon after, the developers were awarded $11.1 million credits after another developer dropped a housing project with support services for the homeless at 1202 S. Park St.
“Like all affordable housing developments, the financing structure for the Ace is highly complex,” Auerback said. “Putting these together is a bit of a Rubik’s cube.”
Movin’ Out-Commonwealth expects to start construction in spring 2020 with project completion in summer 2021.
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