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Beacon Avenue set for new housing

Partridge Estates addition also considered

By Scott Bellile

New London city officials say the city is short on housing. However, that is about to change.

Commonwealth development
Forty cottage-style housing units are scheduled to begin construction this fall on East Beacon Avenue as part of an affordable housing development, according to Kevin McDonell, vice president of development at Commonwealth Companies headquartered in Fond du Lac.

The preliminary site plan lays out two eight-unit buildings on the north side of Beacon Avenue where the former Simmons factory was and two ten-unit buildings on the south side where the Simmons employee parking lot was. There will be a total of 24 three-bedroom units and 16 two-bedroom units plus parking and a clubhouse.

At least 85 percent of the development’s tenants will need to earn an income below the maximum family income limits as outlined by the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA). The remaining 15 percent can earn higher incomes.

For a single resident in Outagamie County, he or she would need to earn at most $29,940 annually to qualify for affordable housing. Meanwhile, a four-person family must make below $42,720.

McDonell estimated a monthly rent of $600-$700 for the low-to-moderate-income residents and $700-$900 for the rest. There will be no architectural differences between the two income categories.

“All will be built to the same high-quality design standards,” McDonell said.

McDonell said WHEDA identified New London as a city with a housing shortage in terms of the number of employees working in the city.

“We’ve got the need,” New London City Administrator Kent Hager said. “It’s an opportunity to change the whole area of the community for the better.”

The city has been planning the project with Commonwealth for two years. The project hit a one-year delay when Commonwealth missed an application deadline for affordable housing tax credits through WHEDA, Hager said. This year Commonwealth was awarded those credits.

The city and Commonwealth are currently reworking the site plan because a sewer line and water main run where Commonwealth plans to build. Hager told the personnel and finance committee June 8 he’s confident the issue will be resolved.

The city is donating its third of the former Simmons property it owns to Commonwealth. Outagamie County and a private owner are each selling their thirds.

The city will also widen, repave and add curb and gutter to Beacon Avenue.

Once the development is built, the city will profit from about $20,000 in property taxes annually, Hager said. The city also expects to earn up to $60,000 on a TIF district on the south plot between now and its closure in 2022.

“I think it’s great for us because it takes that site that’s basically been sitting there for years doing nothing … and it helps us increase our tax revenue,” Mayor Gary Henke said.

Henke said residents opposed to the affordable housing project have complained it will increase crime in the neighborhood or bring too much traffic. Henke said those worries are unfounded—he predicts many of the families living there will be middle class, plus the wider road will accommodate any increase in traffic.

Hager, Henke and McDonell all said the project will stimulate the local economy.

“This is probably the most encouraged I’ve been about New London economy since I became mayor,” he said. “Things are really picking up and starting to move. It’s great to see.”

McDonell said Commonwealth aims to finish the development by fall 2017.

Partridge Drive apartments
The city could gain more housing beyond Commonwealth’s project. Another developer is considering adding a “phase two” to the Partridge Estates, located north of the business district off of Taubel Boulevard.

Hager told the economic development committee May 31 that Partridge Estates “rented out the three units they built out there so fast they’re considering building three more right away.” Construction could begin as soon as this winter if Partridge Estates decides to add on.

Phase two would be three additional apartments for a total of 36 rental units. If it happened, Hager estimated the city would earn $33,000 in annual property taxes off the units built in phases one and two combined.

Hager said the addition could attract 150 to 200 more tenants to the area. He said his believes many of Partridge Estates’ current residents moved to New London from outside of town, meaning the city’s population could increase.

The committee unanimously recommended the city council authorize Hager to negotiate a development agreement to extend Partridge Drive and install water and sewer for the proposed new phase for no more than $125,000. City council was scheduled to vote on the motion Tuesday, June 14, after the Press Star went to press.

Hager said income from phase two could pay off the city’s cost in three years.

The Partridge Estates corporate staff is still evaluating whether it’s feasible for the company to proceed with phase two, Hager said.
“It’s not a done deal but it’s moving. That’s good,” Hager said.

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