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A complete rehabilitation of a historic Racine factory building will result in 77 much-needed new apartment units. The Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority and City of Racine Mayor Cory Mason have announced that federal affordable housing tax credits have been secured to help finance the redevelopment of the Gold Medal Furniture building, 1701 Packard Ave. A Thursday morning ceremony announced the project.

The redevelopment is a complete rehabilitation of one the Gold Medal Furniture buildings and is expected to provide a positive impact on the revitalization of the surrounding neighborhood. WHEDA has awarded $580,000 in federal affordable housing tax credits to the Gold Medal Lofts apartment project. Rehabilitation of one of the buildngs will create 77 rental units; 65 are described as “affordable.”

State and federal historic tax credits will be used to preserve the character of the building.  J. Jeffers & Co. and Lutheran Social Services of Wisconsin are developers on the project.

“There’s a substantial economic impact for the 65 families at Gold Medal Lofts that will pay affordable rental rates rather than market rates,” said WHEDA Executive Director Wyman Winston. “The residents will collectively save $390,000 per year, with a total savings of $5.9 million over 15 years, allowing them greater independent saving and spending decisions to make. The savings are dollars that go right back into the Racine community, the local economy.”

The total investment for the project is $18 million. Property taxes are projected at $64,500 annually. And, the development is not located in a tax increment district.

Racine has focused on revitalizing downtown for quite a while, but the alderman for the 3rd District, John Tate II, likes what he sees happening in the Uptown area.

“For years there has been an effort (downtown),” he said. “As we know, wherever we put money, more money follows. By having the city put money in Uptown, we know that more money will follow, even without the incentives.”

Mayor Cory Mason speaks with longtime neighborhood residents from the Poole family about the rehabilitation of the Gold Medal factory building near their homes.

Longtime members of the Poole family have lived in the neighborhood of the Gold Medal buildings for almost 51 years. Several were on hand for Thursday ceremonies announcing the project financing.

“It looks like it is going to be very nice,” said Yvonne (Poole) Klyce. But several family members noted that it is also important for the city to be vigilant in stopping crime on the streets in the area.

‘New life to historic building’

“The City is grateful for the partnership we have with WHEDA. We know that Racine is a great place work and live, and this investment by WHEDA is just further confirmation of that,” said Mason. “The redevelopment of the Gold Medal Furniture building will bring new life to a beautiful, but underutilized, historic building. Families will now be able to grow and flourish in affordable living spaces, which are literally across the street from some of the city’s largest employers and just a short walk to the shops of Uptown. This is a big win for the neighborhood.”

The 1701 Packard Ave. building is just phase one of a broader plan to redevelop both buildings that made up the Gold Medal factory. The developer will close on both buildings in January. The 1701 building will be the 77-unit rehabilitation to be completed by the end of next year.

“Pending the exact performance of this building our goal is to move on to the 1700 building, a smaller, 30,000-square-feet building,” said J. Jeffers & Co. president and CEO, Joshua Jeffers.  “It has incredible features and lends itself to residential conversion. It’s a larger land parcel, which lends itself to new construction as well, which would be great for this area.

“Historic preservation is a wonderful thing, but it’s great when we can combine it with new construction and new investment.”

WHEDA administers the federal tax credit program. Tax credits provide opportunities for private developers to fund projects like Gold Medal Lofts that developers might not ordinarily be available to finance on their own.

Rex Davenport is a reporter, editor and editorial project manager with more than 40 years of experience in newspaper, business magazines and other content channels.