Old Main, the most prominent building at the Soldiers Home, is among the structures being rehabilitated to create new housing for veterans and their families.
Old Main, the most prominent building at the Soldiers Home, is among the structures being rehabilitated to create new housing for veterans and their families.

Six buildings at the Milwaukee Soldiers Home, a national historic landmark district, are being rehabilitated into housing for veterans and their families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

Located on the grounds of the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center, the project is being led by The Alexander Co. and the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee (HACM).

The six historic buildings being rehabilitated include Old Main, the most prominent and recognizable building on the campus; the administration building; the Catholic chaplain’s quarters; and three duplexes. These buildings will be renovated into a total of 101 units of housing with supportive services.

“This project entailed a significant collaborative effort, which speaks volumes to our nation’s commitment to care for our veterans,” says Joseph Alexander, president of The Alexander Co. “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.”

Established just after the Civil War, the Milwaukee Soldiers Home National Historic Landmark District is one of three remaining original Soldiers Homes in the country.

The project, which celebrated a groundbreaking ceremony in September, is made possible through an enhanced-use lease (EUL) program with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Through an EUL, six buildings in the district will be leased long term to The Alexander Co., which will take on the cost of rehabilitation. The law authorizing EULs requires that the buildings be used to provide housing for veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. The VA selected The Alexander Co. and HACM proposal after a competitive RFP process in 2016.

“I couldn’t be more excited about this project,” said Dan Zomchek, director of the Milwaukee VA Medical Center. “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.”

HACM will operate the buildings after renovations are complete. Since 2005, it has provided housing to homeless veterans on the VA grounds at the historic Surgeon’s Quarters building, which HACM remediated and restored into an award-winning single-room occupancy facility.

The development will be supported by 101 Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-VA Supportive Housing vouchers.

Financing for the $44 million project includes about $19.5 million in 9% and 4% low-income housing tax credit equity and about $13.6 million state and federal historic tax credit equity. National Equity Fund invested in the federal credits, and U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corp. invested in the state credits.

The project will also use $5 million in military construction funding, and WHEDA is providing $1.5 million from the National Housing Trust Fund and $50,000 in Capital Magnet Funds. Additional funding sources include Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Federal Home Loan Bank, The Home Depot Foundation, the National Park Service, Milwaukee Housing Trust Fund, and the Local Initiatives Support Corp.

Wisconsin-based The Alexander Co. has over 35 years of experience in historic preservation and adaptive-reuse developments.