Common Ground’s Milwaukee Rising battles foreclosures

Milwaukee is about to get a lot more colorful as Common Ground, in partnership with the City of Milwaukee, combats the foreclosure crisis and fixes boarded-up homes. Last fall, local banks gave the Milwaukee nonprofit organization a combined $33.8 million to help the group’s housing initiative, Milwaukee Rising.

Kathleen Scott, Marquette Alumni, talks at the renovation of a froclosed property. Photo courtesy Jeff Jordan.

Last Thursday, the organization led its partners through its fourth rehabbed home to be put on the market, at 2402 N. 46th St. in the Sherman Park neighborhood. So far three of the group’s six rehabbed houses have been sold, one is scheduled to be razed in February and 21 additional rehabilitations are in the works.

The home on 46th St. underwent many dramatic changes, including a new red stucco exterior, a refurbished garage, a new electrical system, new plumbing and fixtures and a completely new kitchen.

The tour, attended by Aldermen Willie Hines and Michael Murphy, of the 15th and 10th districts, respectively, gave supporters a look at the newly rehabbed single-family home that as recent as last year had been boarded up.

“Common Ground, in partnership with the city of Milwaukee, has done a fantastic job,” Hines said in his remarks. “I couldn’t think of a better neighborhood to invest in.”

Hines also commended the banking industry for stepping up to help the initiative.

Construction was done over the summer by Zilber Ltd., and the home has been on the market for one month, according to Kathleen Scott, associate organizer of Common Ground. The 1,821-square foot, four-bedroom, two-bathroom home is listed at $106,900.

Scott says the purpose of the tour of the home was to show appreciation to partners and member organizations.

“We had a lot of partners, a lot of people we wanted to thank for all of their hard work,” Scott said.

Scott said the organization has plans to continue rehabbing homes on a block-by-block basis.  The organization’s goal is 25 renovated homes per year over the next four years for a total of 100.

Scott compares getting rid of boarded-up foreclosed homes to making a quilt.

“We want houses colorful instead of boarded up,” Scott said.

She said that there are a few interested people, but no buyers of the home just yet.

Also at the tour was a former owner of the home.

Peg Tagliavia, a Milwaukee resident who owned the home from 1981-1995 before selling it, called the home where she raised her two daughters a very special place.

Tagliavia said when she found out the home had been foreclosed on she was devastated.

“I sat in my car across the street and just cried,” Tagliavia said. But she was relieved when she heard that Common Ground had bought it with plans to rehab it and put it back on the market.

“I was so grateful that someone saw the heart of this home,” Tagliavia said.

Wells Fargo also donated a home to be rehabbed by the organization.

Russ Cross, senior vice president and regional servicing director for Wells Fargo Home Mortgages, said the bank often donates homes they acquire through the foreclosure process to nonprofit organizations.

Cross said in the last two years Wells Fargo has donated over three dozen homes to organizations like Common Ground and the Harambee Housing Project.

“We are eager to help organizations like Common Ground that redevelop properties and put them back on the market for resale,” Cross said.

Cross said the bank has plans to continue donating homes.

“We certainly are going to continue to donate homes to nonprofit organizations in Milwaukee area that express interest in our property,” he said. “Nonprofits are important tools to help neighborhoods rebuild themselves.”