Walnut Way Conservation Corp. is creating opportunities for out-of-work, skilled tradesmen living in Lindsay Heights through the Craftsmen Restoration Guild, an organization that rehabilitates foreclosed houses in the community.
“I noticed that there were men in their late 50s and 60s that had a lot of talent, but very little work,” said Larry Adams, environmental steward at Walnut Way, recalling how the idea of the guild came about two years ago. “It was developed because there was blight and unemployment within our community,” Adams added.
The guild, winner of the 2011 Mayor’s Design Award, includes young men new to craftsmanship, and laid-off union workers who are seasoned painters, drywall installers, electricians and carpenters.
Since 2009, the guild has rehabilitated three houses, two four-family apartment buildings and one duplex in Lindsay Heights. The guild acquires the properties from the City of Milwaukee and brings them up to code, increases energy efficiency and remodels them to improve curb appeal. Funding sources for the guild include the Social Development Corporation, Zilber Family Foundation and the city’s Neighborhood Stabilization Project. Recently, the guild installed solar hot water systems in three homes to reduce costs and provide renewable energy.
Adams said the guild benefits the men, who receive training and employment; the community, with aesthetically pleasing homes and the potential for owner-occupancy; and the city, by restoring homes and making them livable and increasing property values. Guild members pay a one-time $500 fee.
The Craftsmen Restoration Guild is licensed by the City of Milwaukee. Currently, there are five members, including two father-son pairs. According to Adams, their purpose is to influence each other, youth and neighbors in Lindsay Heights to foster wealth, stability and personal ownership in the community. The goal is for the guild to become a for-profit business.