Janesville71.4°

Whitewater bucks national housing trends

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Carla McCann
February 9, 2008
— While much of the nation was experiencing a stagnant housing market in 2007, the city of Whitewater had the largest increase in housing units in 10 years.

City leaders attribute much of the growth to a need for community housing for UW-Whitewater students.


University enrollment increased but on-campus housing didn’t, said Whitewater City Manager Kevin Brunner.


Compared to past years, more students were looking for off-campus housing, Brunner said.


The city gained 102 housing units. Developers built 10 single-family homes, nine duplexes and three new multi-family units that provide 54 additional units.


Developers also restored five downtown buildings. The projects included 51 new downtown apartments.


The city had a surge in downtown apartments, Brunner said.


“And we are working on ways to add more that will help boost economic development and increase foot traffic,” said Tamara Brodnicki, executive director of Downtown Whitewater.


The goal for Downtown Whitewater, which was organized in 2005, is to promote the revitalization of the city’s downtown.


Until last year, the city annually averaged about 75 new housing units, Brunner said.


“I was really surprised by last year’s numbers,” Brunner said.


The second- and third-floor downtown apartments fit well into the revitalization plan and are a vital link in the downtown strategy, Brunner said.


The apartments are a good investment for the downtown, said Russell Devitt, president of the Downtown Whitewater board of directors.


“Most likely, the new apartments will be rented by students,” Devitt said.


In addition to offering living space, the apartments encourage downtown activities, Devitt said.


He hopes retail shops and offices soon will follow.


“We’re starting to see a little more retail,” Brunner said. “But we are kind of impatient.”


Because of the university, Whitewater has a unique housing market, Brunner said.


“We have a built-in market,” Devitt said.


The university and city often work together in filling housing needs, he added.


The city has about $500,000 to encourage new development. Private investments have totaled more than $8 million, Brunner said.


“We definitely have positive signs happening,” Brunner said. “The Main Street program has been very helpful to us.”


It’s been a long time since the community invested in the downtown, Devitt said.


“But people now are showing a positive attitude about building and investing,” Devitt said. “It’s all coming together at the same time.”



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