After having kicked off work renovating the Edward Townsend Mix-designed Old Main into veterans housing at the Milwaukee Soldiers Home Historic District, the Madison-based Alexander Company, Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee and Department of Veterans Affairs launch the next phase of efforts to transform vacant buildings at the Soldiers Home in service of veterans.
Five more buildings will join Old Main – which is getting 72 one-bedroom and eight two-bedroom units, as well as community spaces, a fitness center, resource centers, offices and more – in being rehabbed.
On Friday at 11:30 a.m., Gov. Tony Evers, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Mayor Tom Barrett, U.S. Army veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Gary Wetzel and others are expected to speak at the event on the grounds of the Clement Zablocki VA Medical Center.
"This project entailed a significant collaborative effort, which speaks volumes to our nation’s commitment to care for our veterans," said The Alexander Company Presiden Joseph Alexander, in a statement.
"Our team is honored to have the opportunity to work with these historic buildings and we’re proud that through our work we’ll be able to return them to the veterans they were built to serve."
The six buildings (identified on the aerial view above) are expected to create a total of 101 supportive housing units for veterans and their families that are homeless or face homelessness.
The administration building – which you can recognize by the distinctive clock in its facade – which will get single-room occupancy units as well as housing for 14 homeless veterans and their families. There will also be community and activity spaces in the former first-floor post office.
Four houses, including the former Catholic chaplain’s quarters and three that were homes to Soldiers Home staff and their families. The former will remain a single-family residence, while the others will each contain two two-story three-bedroom units on each side.
"I couldn’t be more excited about this project," said Dan Zomchek, director of the Milwaukee VA Medical Center, in the release. "It’s a wonderful partnership between the VA and our community that will enable us to showcase the historical significance of our campus while continuing to advance our mission to care for our nation’s heroes."
The redevelopment is taking place via an Enhanced Use Lease (EUL) agreement with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), The Alexander Company and the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee, who will work with a team selected by the Veterans Administration to convert the buildings into 101 supportive housing units for homeless or at-risk veterans and their families.
"We have a shared responsibility to meet the needs of veterans who have served and sacrificed for us," said Sen. Tammy Baldwin, in the statement. "This project tells an important story about our past and will help write a new chapter about serving homeless, at-risk veteran and improving their quality of life."
In December, the VA issued RFPs for three other nearby buildings, including the Henry Koch-designed Ward Theater and shingle-style chapel, and Mix’s 1867-68 Governor’s Mansion. That process is currently on hold.
At Friday’s event contractor JP Cullen will make a $10,000 donation toward the restoration work at the site.
Take a video walk through Old Main here.
To learn more about the projects or to make a donation, visit SavetheSoldiersHome.com.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.