Affordable housing development The Gridiron planned in Ashwaubenon
By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – What’s being touted as “affordable housing and social connectedness” is planned at a former assisted living center at 2305 San Luis Pl.
Plans for The Gridiron call for remodeling the former San Luis Manor site into 50-plus apartment units of varying sizes.
As proposed, there would be 30 studio apartments, six one-bedroom units, 10 two-bedroom units, three three-bedroom units and two four-bedroom units.
The planned monthly rental rates are $585 for studios, $650 for one-bedroom units, $875 for two-bedroom units, $1,000 for three-bedroom units and $1,400 for four-bedroom units.
No street parking is called for in the plans, which also note the 74 parking stalls meet village code requirements.
Targeted tenants include the elderly, young professionals, families and individuals looking for affordable housing.
To allow the change, the Ashwaubenon village board would have to rezone the property from B-3 Community Business to R-3 Multi-Family Residence.
A neighborhood meeting July 14 filled the village hall board room as an initial step in the public process for reviewing the requested zoning change with representatives on hand from St. John’s Homeless Shelter and Hoffman Planning, Design & Construction.
“The Gridiron is an innovative solution to an extreme shortage of affordable housing,” said St. John’s Executive Director Alexia Wood. “We see that at a national level. We certainly see that right here in the Greater Green Bay community.”
Wood said housing projects being constructed locally are at the extremes of the market, either high-end housing for people able to choose the amenities they want or housing for low-income individuals and households with developers seeking government subsidies.
“When you look at a low-income housing project, what tends to happen is everybody in that housing project tends to associate with other individuals of a lower socio-economic status,” she said. “And as a result, they begin to feel inferior to the larger community.”
Wood said she completed a doctoral program last year from the University of Southern California, where she researched the impact of social isolation on individuals and the communities where they live.
“So The Gridiron, the result of that, not only addresses the need for affordable housing, it provides intentional opportunities for social connection to individuals of various groups that may be seeking out those social connection opportunities,” she said.
Wood said the units are slightly smaller in size than other apartments in exchange for community gathering spaces, such as community gardens, oversized living areas, living rooms, dining halls and a fitness space.
“You’ll see there the potential small-scale commercial space – small opportunities for commercial use,” she said. “So, we’re talking, perhaps, a walk-in smoothie bar – things that are smaller in size with the square footage.”
Wood said The Gridiron is not a homeless shelter, nor a transitional living center or a senior living facility.
She said The Gridiron is “a socially inclusive housing option where individuals of all socio-economic levels can secure a long-term lease in a housing environment that provides opportunities for intentional social connection.”
Wood said The Gridiron will add affordable housing options to “take a small step in alleviating the shortage that is felt in our community.”
“As you can see here, the unit mix provides ample opportunities for singles, couples and families alike to be able to secure housing within The Gridiron,” she said. “So in addition to really emphasizing that multi-generational approach, The Gridiron can also work to serve households at various stages of life – from the young professional, to the household with children, up through somebody who’s transitioning into that empty nester stage.”
Wood said the project is a “win-win for tenants, as well as for residents of the village at large.”
“It will provide a positive economic impact through improved property value…,” she said. “As we know, that building stood vacant for quite some time.”
After receiving the backing of St. John’s board and securing the necessary financing, Wood said purchasing the property is dependent on approval from the village.
“We will certainly need to go through the village process and receive that support and approval from the village,” she said. “We are also looking to receive feedback, because we want to be a good community neighbor.”
Wood said feedback received from various individuals attending the neighborhood meeting will be used to make adjustments to the project plans.
“Our next formal step will then be to present this to the Ashwaubenon Plan Commission,” she said.
Though a letter sent to neighbors of the property stated the rezoning could be considered in August, Community Development Director Aaron Schuette said the St. John’s group requested moving the approval process to September, so the project will not be on the agenda next Tuesday for the commission nor the Site Plan Review Committee.
Schuette said the rezoning request would be considered by the commission before a public hearing and final approval by the village board.
Wood said The Gridiron will be a property-taxpaying development.
“It’s under the umbrella of St. John’s, but it is something where we would not be petitioning for tax-exempt status for the property,” she said.
Wood said she believes the project is financially feasible because of the shortage of affordable housing in the area and the interest.
“Through that, we know that the rent coming in each month would offset some of the ongoing costs,” she said. “That small commercial space – that we’d be able to partner with other area businesses or other non-profits to utilize that space.”
Over time, Wood said the business model for The Gridiron shows it to be self-sustaining, but it would be scalable, and some of the revenue coming in could go into a pot of money that would allow St. John’s to scale it and offer it in other parts of the community.
She said The Gridiron is a privately funded program with monthly rates based on what is reasonable rent for the community.
“What the research will show is the cost of living in Green Bay is much higher than what we are projecting to charge in rent,” Wood said. “But we want those rent rates to be reasonable, to be something that the average American worker in our community could afford, could be stable, self-sufficient.”
Wood, who acknowledged 15 businesses publicly support the project, said a capital campaign is being undertaken to offset the costs of upgrades and renovations for the site, with 2022 being planned for when the apartment units would open for tenants.
She said The Gridiron was selected as the development’s name “as a testament to the grit and perseverance of various individuals.”
“Gridiron (reflects) certainly on the early days of football here in our community and who that represented, who signed up to play for the Packers back then, and for us, seeing that same grit, that same resilience, that same toughness with individuals, the hard-working American in our community who is willing to work every day, doing what they need to do and needs that support to create a strong financial foundation and hopefully be able to create a strong financial future for their children,” Wood said.
Robert Koehler, project architect with Hoffman, said the project will involve extensive remodeling of the interior to convert the unoccupied facility into apartment units.
“Basically what is being proposed is to (demolish) all the finishes and walls between the corridor and the exterior, and provide new layouts for plumbing and interior walls, and provide new finishes,” he said. “Also, we’re going to need to address electrical and mechanical needs with that.”
Koehler said the budget target to renovate the facility is around $4 million.
Upon the property being rezoned from B-3 to R-3, he said the project would go though about a six-month design process and then another year of construction to complete.