JEFFERSON — When Ted Matkom first looked at a proposed apartment site in the former Foremost Buildings facility, he fell in love with the location.
The brick building with side windows is large and sits right along the Rock River.
Three years later, Matkom was one of many on hand early Wednesday morning in downtown Jefferson for the formal beginning of a project that will bring housing and a space for artists to this historic site.
“You will see timbers and iron beams in your unit. This will be really cool,” said Matcom, who is the Wisconsin Market president for real estate developer Gorman and Company.
The Candise Street Lofts, a $10 million project scheduled for completion by next July, will include 36 units with one, two- and three-bedroom options. The prices will be affordable, with high-end finishes, Matkom said.
A riverwalk also will be created along the Candise Street Lofts project. The idea is to link a walking and bicycle path to the downtown to help in revitalization.
Matkom said Gorman and Company has revitalized many old buildings throughout the state, including the Bishop O’Conner Center in Madison.
As part of the project, the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) announced that the City of Jefferson is receiving $250,000 to help fund the project.
“This is the type of project we would encourage any company to do,” said Jason Scott of the WEDC. “This hit all the right marks.”
Scott said the WEDC is seeing a national trend in more downtown housing.
“We are trying to retain the local retailers,” he said of downtowns. “There is a renewed interest in young professionals coming back to the downtown (to live) and the amenities that come along with that.”
The Wisconsin Main Street Program, overseen by WEDC and launched in 1987, provides support and training to communities trying to revitalize their downtowns. Wisconsin Main Street programs have helped create more than 14,000 jobs and $1.9 billion in development.
There are 34 communities in Wisconsin that are part of the Main Street Program. WEDC’s Wisconsin Connect Communities program also helps offer training for cities with downtown redevelopment.
Jefferson Mayor Dale Oppermann addressed the crowd Wednesday, saying that the project offers a great opportunity for the area. When flooding hit Jefferson in 2008, Oppermann said, the area where the building is located was one of the worst areas affected. As part of the project, it now will have a flood wall.
The Foremost Buildings site has been vacant since 2012.
While the proximity to the downtown and river were large factors in the project, there also is a chance for local artists to have a place to work. As part of the project, 2,500 square feet of space will be available for artists to work in for free. All they have to do is sign up for the space and time they need, Matkom said.
Jen Pinnow, exective director for the Jefferson Chamber of Commerce, said she is very excited for the next chapter for this building and for what can happen at this location and in the downtown.