Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Community And City Hall Have Failed To Backup Esperanza Unida

Esperanza Unida, Inc. dilemma to determine the future of the 611 W. National Ave. building still uncertain.

By H. Nelson Goodson
December 10, 2014

Milwaukee, WI - The City of Milwaukee and WE Energies have agreed to keep the light flowing at the Esperanza Unida, Inc., 611 W. National Ave. building through December while the city attempts to foreclose the property for tax delinquency. According to the Milwaukee Department of Development, a foreclosure was filed in a Milwaukee County court to seize the 611 building for tax delinquency. The Esperanza Unida has until January 5 or before to pay over $176,771.60 in property taxes in order to keep the building, which has more than $600,000 in bank liens.
The 611 property is assessed at $1,948,000, but owes delinquent taxes for 2013, $66,556.24; for 2012, $64,103.63 and for 2011, $46,111.73, a total of $176,771.60, plus incurring tax delinquent penalties per month. 
Currently, Esperanza Unida owes about $180,000 to WE Energies, which the company had threaten to cut the power off, if it doesn't get paid. An agreement between the city and We Energies has been reached and the power at Esperanza Unida 611 building will be kept on this month at least. The city will take up the monthly bill of nearly $5,000 in electricity cost and the remaining balance will be held by WE Energies until it is determine who will actually own the building or take a loss.
The city learned that if the power is shut off at the 611 building, a catastrophic chain reaction would erupt that could damage the foundation of the building and most likely destroy the foundation wall facing S. 6th Street causing severe damage, flooding and sewage backup in the immediate area, according to Manuel "Manny" Pérez, the executive director of Esperanza Unida, Inc. 
The 611 building has a water flow of 5,000 gallons with at least 2,000 of psi water pressure to operate the fire sprinkle system. It would take at least two months to actually drain all the water in the system, if the city decides to shut down the building after it gets possession of the property or it would continue to pay WE Energies to keep the water system operating at the building until it is sold.
In the last year or so, the community and city hall, including the Mayor Tom Barrett's office have failed to backup or support Esperanza Unida it's financial deficit dilemma. Mayor Barrett and the city have a partnership with Esperanza Unida, but when the organization asked for help, Barrett and the city turned their back on the organization.
Esperanza Unida under the late former Richard Oulahan and predecessors have made the non-profit organization a success. The organization provided job training programs that helped thousands of low income and unskilled community residents to learn a trade and who later became productive and tax paying citizens in Milwaukee and surrounding areas. Esperanza Unida also worked with other organizations to expand on their initiatives geared for job and technical skill training. Today, none of those that have actually benefited in one way or other from the fruits of Esperanza Unida have stepped up to help the ailing organization. 
Currently under the Pérez administration at Esperanza Unida, the 611 building has been upgraded to make it a competitive real estate business property in the district, even though a lack of development has been absent in the area. Five businesses are at the 611 location, Reynas Entertainment and Mexican Restaurant, SWC Asbestos, El Sol Broadcasting, VIVA Health Care and a new business, Staffing Partners, a temperary  branch employment agency managed by Andrés Guzmán. Guzmán says, the employment agency move at the location last month.
The future of the Esperanza Unida building will most likely be determine by December 31, 2014, which on January 5, 2015 a judge will decided, if the city can seize the building for tax delinquency. Another option on the table, the BMO Harris Bank (formerly Marshall & Ilsley Bank) who holds several liens on the building for more than $600,000 could decided to pay the Esperanza Unida's city delinquent taxes, electric bill and then take over the building and put it up for sale or the bank could decide to lift the liens and allow Esperanza Unida to sell the building to an Oshkosh developer who has offered to pay $1.3M for the building and turn it into a 55-unit loft apartments. Esperanza Unida would than pay BMO Harris Bank for the outstanding liens and pay all delinquent city taxes owed, including We Energies.
In brief, Oulahan took out several real estate mortgages in 1994 totalling $600,000 ($600K) in loans from Marshall & Ilsley Bank (M&I, now BMO Harris Bank) without a Board Chair signature. Pérez has confirmed that there is no record on file about what ever happened to the M&I loans or how they were actually spent.

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