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  Veterans Manor, in the Near West Side of Milwaukee, is home to many formerly homeless veterans.
  The U.S., Wisconsin, and Prisoner of War flags and medallions of the five branches of the military mark the entrance to Veterans Manor.
  The dramatic Wisconsin Avenue façade of Veterans Manor includes large windows with sunscreens to control glare and building temperature.
  The 35th Avenue façade includes the entrance to commercial rooms in the building.
  Community rooms within Veterans Manor encourage social interaction.
  The commercial kitchen, which employs many Veterans Manor residents, provides between 3,000 and 5,000 meals each day to local schools and low-income residents in the neighborhood.
  A café is located on the first floor of Veterans Manor.

Home > Best Practices > Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Permanent Supportive Housing at Veterans Manor

 

Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Permanent Supportive Housing at Veterans Manor

 

A mixed-use, affordable housing development that provides 52 permanent supportive housing units to veterans recently opened in the heart of the Near West Side in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Thomas H. Wynn, Sr. Memorial Veterans Manor officially opened its doors on Memorial Day 2011 and is now home to many formerly homeless veterans. Built in a prominent location along important transportation corridors with convenient access to downtown and a major freeway, the development is helping to revitalize the Near West Side. Veterans Manor, a modern, four-story building, received three housing awards in 2012: the Mayor’s Design Award, a Partnership Fair Housing Award from the Wisconsin Fair Housing Network, and a Milwaukee Award for Neighborhood Development Innovation from Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Milwaukee.

Project Context

Veterans Manor is located on the northeastern corner of 35th Street, which connects to Interstate 94, and Wisconsin Avenue, which connects to Marquette University’s campus and downtown.1 The surrounding neighborhood is a mix of single-family houses, duplexes, and multifamily buildings and complexes. Near West Side is one of Milwaukee’s most densely populated neighborhoods, and nearly 20 percent of its 14,071 residential housing units are subsidized or assisted.2

In 2004, the Near West Side Area Comprehensive Plan identified eight catalytic projects to spur investment in the neighborhood.3 The Veterans Manor parcel is located within the boundaries of two of them. One, the 35th Street Area Redevelopment project, had the potential to attract high-quality commercial and retail uses because of the amount of vacant and underutilized land within its boundaries. The other, the Wisconsin Avenue Enhanced Transit Opportunities/Amenities project, had access to transit that the city could readily improve. To maintain the neighborhood’s character, the plan incorporated higher density multifamily residences and mixed-use, transit-oriented developments in these catalytic projects.

Veterans Manor was built on land that had been vacant for more than a decade before a development team led by the Center for Veterans Issues (CVI) and Cardinal Capital Management pursued redevelopment. The project did not encounter any development-review barriers to approval because the project proposal and proposed occupancy met current zoning requirements.4

Financing

The development team sought financing for the project during the economic recession of 2007 to 2009. Financing the $11.3 million project required a combination of local, state, and federal funding, including what the development team believes were crucial funds provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s Tax Credit Assistance program.5 RBC Capital Markets’ Tax Credit Equity Group provided the project with more than $6.8 million in funding through the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program. The project also received Community Development Block Grant funding in the amount of $550,000 from the city of Milwaukee and $418,888 from Milwaukee County.6 Veterans Manor residents receive subsidies through the Housing Choice Voucher program (35 units) and HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program vouchers (17 units).7

Design

Veterans Manor’s prominent Near West Side location demanded a high-quality design. The design team, led by Eppstein Uhen Architects, envisioned a building that not only met these aesthetic demands but also incorporated the special functions of supportive housing for veterans: space for the supportive services and common areas for social and communal interaction.

At 62,259 square feet, Veterans Manor is a narrow rectangular structure fronting on Wisconsin Avenue.8 The front of the building is anchored by a red brick wall bearing the building’s name. The brick wall separates a façade of large windows with sunscreens to help control glare and building temperature from a glass-fronted stairwell that is illuminated at night. The building is set back from the street, but centrally located entry steps meet the sidewalk in front. On the west side of the entry steps is a landscaped wall with flagpoles that suspend the Wisconsin, United States, and Prisoner of War flags. On the entryway’s east side is a decorative wall with five large medallions representing the five branches of the military.

The 35th Avenue façade features an alternating pattern of light beige and red brick. Near the center of the façade is an entrance to the northern half of the first floor, a 5,635-square-foot commercial space that includes an independently operated commercial kitchen and space for a deli or café. The southern half of the first floor contains space for supportive services, including offices for CVI and case managers and a nurse practitioner’s station, as well as a community room with a big-screen television, fitness room, and business lab.

Floors two and three each contain 18 units arranged along a central hallway, and the fourth floor contains 16 units and an activity room that overlooks the nearby Menomonee Valley and Miller Park, home to Major League Baseball’s Milwaukee Brewers. The building also features a 30-space underground parking garage and a 35-space surface lot on the building’s east side.9

Each residential unit is approximately 550 square feet and contains a bedroom, small eat-in kitchen, living area, and bathroom. The units are either fully or partially accessible to those with vision, hearing, or physical impairments. Laundry facilities are located on each floor, and high-speed Internet access and all utilities are included in the rent, which is approximately 30 percent of a resident’s income.10

Sustainable Housing Solution

HUD-funded studies have found that properly managed supportive housing “generally has a positive impact on neighborhoods when done at a small scale”11 and that permanent supportive housing “can promote more stability and, thereby, greater health and independence” for its residents. Veterans Manor has numerous features that improve the lives of its residents.12 In addition to housing stability, residents receive a full array of case management services from either the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs or CVI, the latter having been involved in supportive services and housing since 1994. CVI offers numerous services onsite, including job counseling, substance abuse counseling, and educational, technical, and health and wellness training.13

An important advantage of the mixed-use building is its commercial kitchen. Operated by CVI’s partner, the Milwaukee Center for Independence, the kitchen provides between 3,000 and 5,000 meals each day to local schools and low-income residents in the neighborhood and employs many Veterans Manor residents.14

The building is secured with a 24-hour electronic card entry system, and loitering outside the building is prohibited. Social interaction in the building, however, is encouraged, and designated community areas throughout the building are well used, according to supportive housing program management.15

Residents also benefit from local amenities, including the nearby 35th Street commercial district and a bus stop directly in front of the building that provides easy access to Wisconsin Avenue and downtown.

Veterans Manor also offers environmentally sustainable features that helped the building achieve Green Built Home certification. Numerous design features save energy and reduce utility costs, including sun-reflecting roofing, fiberglass windows with treated exteriors, occupancy sensors for bathrooms in the units and for common areas, energy-efficient boilers, ENERGY STAR-rated appliances, and low-flow toilets, showers, and faucets.16 The architects also included concept plans for installing photovoltaic panels in the future.17

Evidence of Success

On a single night in January 2011, 1,466 people were homeless in Milwaukee. Of these, 192 people (13%) were veterans, including 15 who were unsheltered or living in a place not intended for human habitation.18 Veterans Manor is helping to end homelessness for some of those veterans. The government and cross-sector coordination that helped fund Veterans Manor has resulted in a permanent supportive housing community for 52 low-income veterans, many of whom were formerly homeless.

Within two months of its May 2011 opening, Veterans Manor was fully leased. CVI management reports that turnover has been extremely low, which suggests that the project is fulfilling residents’ needs for both housing stability and supportive services.19

From the city’s perspective, development activity in the Near West Side community during a slow growth period has been a significant benefit to the economy, and a lot that had been vacant for years is now generating tax revenue.20 The project’s high-quality design at a prominent location is expected to stimulate similar development activity. Veterans Manor provides researchers and policymakers with a valuable lesson in how to use partnerships to finance, design, and build high-quality, low-income housing that can be a catalyst for community revitalization.

To learn more about HUD’s efforts to eliminate veteran homelessness by 2015, read the summer 2012 issue of Evidence Matters.


  1. Milwaukee Department of City Development. 2004. “Near West Side Area Comprehensive Plan,” 63–67.

  2. Ibid., 5–7.

  3. Ibid., 70, 72–73, 78–79.

  4. Suzanne Hanson, operations manager, Milwaukee Development Center, Department of Community Development, e-mail correspondence, 19 September 2012.

  5. Erich Schwenker, president, Cardinal Capital Management, telephone interview, 3 July 2012.

  6. Ibid.; “Milwaukee’s Veterans Manor: Permanent Supportive Housing and Services for Veterans,Tax Credit Advisor, 26 September 2010. Accessed 25 June 2012.

  7. Robert Cocroft, president and chief executive officer, Center for Veterans Issues, telephone interview, 28 June 2012.

  8. Milwaukee Development Center. April 2011. “Application for Certificate of Occupancy,” document provided to HUD.

  9. Cocroft interview.

  10. Veterans Manor, Construction, “They Thought of Everything!” Accessed 29 October 2012.

  11. George Galster, Kathryn Pettit, Peter A. Tatian, Anna M. Santiago, Sandra J. Newman. 1999. “The Impacts of Supportive Housing on Neighborhoods and Neighbors.” Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Policy Development and Research, xiv.

  12. Yin-Ling Irene Wong, Trevor R. Hadley, Dennis P. Culhane, Steve R. Poulin, Morris R. Davis, Brian A. Cirksey, James L. Brown. 2006. “Predicting Staying in or Leaving Permanent Supportive Housing That Serves Homeless People With Serious Mental Illness.” Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Policy Development and Research, ii.

  13. Cardinal Capital Management, “About Cardinal Capital Management: Cardinal Capital News.” Accessed 25 June 2012.

  14. Cocroft interview.

  15. Ibid.

  16. Jack Reichl, vice president, Reichl Construction Inc., internal memo provided to HUD, 25 July 2012.

  17. Megan Kocchi, marketing specialist, Eppstein Uhen Architects, e-mail correspondence, 3 July 2012.

  18. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 2012. “2011 Point-in-Time (PIT) Estimates of Homelessness: Supplement to the Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR).

  19. Cocroft interview.

  20. Vanessa Koster, planning manager, Milwaukee Department of Community Development, e-mail correspondence, 27 June 2012.

 
 
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