Climbing to success: Grant helps Ashwaubenon enliven vacant web site 

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This rendering of The Common Place, a five-story mixed-use building, has 88 dwelling units including studios, one and two bedroom apartments, and is helping to meet Ashwaubenon’s mixed-income housing needs.

A project combining 88 residential units, a climbing gym and commercial space on a vacant lot in Ashwaubenon is getting a boost from a $250,000 WEDC grant.

That Investment grant for community development helped push forward The Common Place, an $18 million five-story project within blocks of Lambeau Field on Mike McCarthy Way.

“While Lambeau Field provides an excellent foundation and is the heart of the area, there is plenty of room for growth in the village of Ashwaubenon,” said Missy Hughes, WEDC Secretary and CEO. “We are thrilled to make the village a year-round hotspot for residentsas well as a sports and investment opportunity.”

Local officials are excited about the opportunity to redesign the area.

“This is truly a catalytic project for the entire area,” said Ashwaubenon Community Development Director Aaron Schuette. “Of course Packers games make for 10+ amazing weekends each year, but we also want this activity to expand throughout the year.”

The project’s developer, Merge Urban Development Group, plans to offer studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments to meet the mixed-income housing needs, including workers’ housing, in the village. The location is within walking distance of many employment offices.

In addition, Odyssey Climbing Co. will be an anchor tenant, construct a state-of-the-art gym and create a dozen or more full-time positions and additional part-time positions. The project also includes commercial space.

The project will breathe new life into a parking lot that previously served as a truck repair shop until 2014, when the village bought the site and demolished the buildings.

The developer’s plan aligned with the village’s master plan for the sports and entertainment district, adding living space while increasing the district’s appeal beyond the stadium.

Joy Hannemann, an operating partner at Merge Urban Development Group, said the housing units will have flexible terms.

“We attract new and young people to the village and pick them up where they are, whether it’s a new job or a change in life,” said Hannemann. “This will place additional residential users in the neighborhood to take advantage of all the district has to offer.”

Schutte said the project “further diversifies our housing stock in the village,” noting that the units are slightly smaller, so their prices may be slightly lower. “We’re trying to get more out of that urban, walkable, pedestrian-centric feel in this area,” added Schuette.

The Community Development Investment Grant Program supports community development and rehabilitation efforts, primarily in inner cities. Since 2013, WEDC has awarded nearly $34.8 million to 166 communities under the program, whose projects are expected to generate more than $517 million in capital investment.