$5 million grant breathes new life into New Berlin’s apartment complex

$5 million grant breathes new life into New Berlin's apartment complex

The Red Mill Apartments in New Berlin, Wisconsin are undergoing a comprehensive overhaul, courtesy of a substantial $5.1 million grant.

“The property, despite being constructed only in the 90s, had fallen into a significant state of disrepair,” remarked Kelly Robertson, the Deputy Director of Greater Opportunities for Broome and Chenango, Inc. She further added, “The extent of the damage was such that rectifications couldn’t be achieved without the aid of this grant.”

Strategically located at the five corners of the town of New Berlin, the apartment complex had at least two or three unoccupied apartments. Their dismal condition rendered them uninhabitable and posed a safety hazard for potential residents.

In 2021, Greater Opportunities acquired the apartment complex along with several other properties in the town and village of New Berlin from New Berlin Housing and Preservation Company, as revealed by Robertson. It was crucial to refurbish these apartments to make them a safe living space for the tenants.

Robertson elaborated on the availability of Home and Community Renewal grants that were being offered by the state through the Community Development Block Grant program under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. However, it was mandatory for the local governments to apply for these grants.

Subsequently, Robertson sought the assistance of Shane Butler, the Chenango County Planner, leading to the Planning Department successfully obtaining the grant. “Our association with the county spans nearly two decades, marked by effective collaboration,” she remarked.

Butler confirmed their application for the grant, emphasizing the acute housing need in Chenango County, particularly in the New Berlin region. An auditor from the state, while reviewing another grant received by the county, praised the significant impact of this refurbishment project.

Butler further proposed that the renovation work by Greater Opportunities might encourage other property owners in the area to upgrade their properties.

Robertson clarified that these grants were specifically earmarked for either the preservation or expansion of housing units within existing structures.

The extensive repairs to the apartments — including nine one-bedroom and nine two-bedroom apartments — were aimed at ensuring their compliance with building codes. Each unit received a new roof, revamped walls, an upgraded heating system, new windows, and replaced siding.

Robertson reported that six apartments are already completed. Six more are due for completion by July 21, and the final batch is set to be renovated by September 30.

As the renovation work progresses, the tenants have been relocated temporarily. All apartments are leased to low-income individuals or families earning up to 80% of the area’s median income. One tenant, initially resistant to the renovation, changed their stance once they saw the newly transformed apartment. “Having something brand new was a novel experience for them,” said Robertson. “It’s a gratifying feeling to be able to provide them with a completely new living space they can call their own.”

Robertson also mentioned that Greater Opportunities has finished revamping an apartment building in Sherburne using a $600,000 grant, which resulted in the addition of three new apartments.

Moreover, the agency plans to upgrade the houses it owns in the village of New Berlin and has initiated a program in Norwich to aid low-income residents in repairing their homes up to $25,000. Greater Opportunities also assists low-income individuals residing in dilapidated manufactured homes by replacing them with new ones. The organization takes the responsibility of removing the old trailer, laying a fresh concrete slab, and installing a new manufactured home on the slab.

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