by Roberta Bauman
WAUNAKEEE, WI – Years in the making even through a pandemic, the Village on Main apartment complex is now completed at 703 W. Main St., with tenants moving in and just a few units left to rent. It is the village’s first workforce housing project, offering 10 apartments priced at market rate, and 40 priced at different median income levels.
Waunakee Village Board members joined financial partners, the management team, builders and Brian Sweeney from the development team at Cohen-Esrey to celebrate Nov. 10. Tours of the building revealed the newly constructed one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments along with the playground to the rear of the building. Several of the units are wheelchair accessible.
Sweeney described the challenge of financing the project.
“It’s been a journey,” he said, recalling that he first began talking to Village Administrator Todd Schmidt about different sites for a workforce housing project in 2016 or 2017.
In 2020, Gov. Tony Evers’ office announced the project had received housing tax credits from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA). But other funding for the project fell through.
The Economic Stability Council was formed by several corporate executives after United Way found housing stability to be the No. 1 economic stability issue for Dane County employees, Heinemann said. A committee raised nearly $12 million to loan to developers building workforce housing.
Heinemann noted that the units are financed in such a way that they will remain affordable.
Cohen-Esrey “really endured,” Schmidt said, adding he wouldn’t have blamed the developers if they had backed away from the project.
“You always said [Cohen-Esrey] believes this is an important project for this community,” Schmidt said. “On behalf of the village, we thank you for doing that.”
Schreedhar Ranabaht of WHEDA called the 50 unit high quality. He noted that building workforce housing is a “tremendous challenge for a community,” adding the development’s success speaks to the commitment from the village.