For the past several decades, Todd Hutchison of Impact Seven and Wisconsin Redevelopment has used his interest of architecture and construction to help revitalize vacant, old buildings in the city – and the entire state – and turn them into affordable places to live.
OMC: How and when did you get involved and interested in architecture and construction?
Todd Hutchison: I really got interested as a kid. I grew up in and around construction, and I worked for general contractors during high school – especially during the summers. I really just loved art and drawing and drafting classes. We had drafting and shop classes very early in the school system I went to, so it was something I really enjoyed.
OMC: When did you realize that you could use something like that to help Milwaukee?
TH: I think that came much later in my career. After I had graduated from high school, I worked in social service fields for a long time. I decided to go back to school for architecture at UWM and got an opportunity, after I’d been working for a general contractor for a while, to work with the YMCA in Milwaukee, buying vacant houses, fixing them up and selling them to first-time homebuyers. I don’t know if that was the first time, but it was one of the earliest times when I realized that I could be of service to the city while still enjoy architecture and construction.
OMC: You worked as a consultant with Impact Seven in Milwaukee. How has their presence in Milwaukee helped move the city forward?
TH: In 2008, they really made a conscious decision to try and start doing some larger projects in urban neighborhoods. That’s when I came on board with Impact Seven, to try to have an impact on the city of Milwaukee. Since that time, we’ve developed a dozen different affordable housing projects throughout the state, but a majority of them in the city of Milwaukee. So I think it’s helped to improve some neighborhoods in the city and also, beyond that, improve a lot of life in the city of Milwaukee.
OMC: What is next with your work with Wisconsin Redevelopment?
TH: As for Wisconsin Redevelopment, that’s going to continue on. We have a number of projects in the works. We’re partners on a project with Impact Seven in Manitowoc, which will be breaking ground this summer: the Artist Lofts, a 40 unit conversion of a historic warehouse building in downtown Manitowoc. We are also partners with Martin Luther King Economic Development Corporation in phase 5 of King Drive Commons project, which will be the conversion of the Milwaukee Enterprise Center on 4th and Hadley into a mixed-use, mixed-income development, keeping much of the office and maker spaces currently in the building and adding market rate as well as affordable housing in the vacant sections of the building. Wisconsin Redevelopment is also consulting on a new affordable housing projects in Iowa, and, of course, we are always looking for new opportunities in Milwaukee and the rest of the state. We’ll be on the lookout for things to do.
OMC: What do you believe is the most important next step for Milwaukee?
TH: I think that all of the Downtown development news is great and really exciting. You hear about what’s happening now on the lakefront and the new Bucks arena and the new Downtown housing; it’s really great. But I think that we also don’t want to lose sight that that’s just a small bit of acreage compared to the overall acreage of Milwaukee. There are a lot of urban neighborhoods that are still in distress and need help.
One of the primary things we can do is help those neighborhoods grow and get stronger by making Milwaukee safer and making the education system stronger. The only way we’ll be able to keep and maintain and grow families in Milwaukee is by making sure they have a safe place to live with a great education system for their kids.
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