River Trail Commons – A unique proposal for Milwaukee

submitted by Nola Cross, Meeting at Gordon Park Pavilion regarding the proposal in October, details at end of article.

After more than five years searching and a couple near misses, Milwaukee Area CoHousing and Cooperative Housing (MACCH) is finally able to announce that land is currently under contract for its planned River Trail Commons (RTC) housing community on Humboldt Avenue adjacent to Gordon Park. RTC seeks an inclusive community with economically diverse households, aimed at closing the housing equity wealth gap. The ownership structures include shared equity cooperative living, deed-restricted below cost condominium homes, and market rate condo homes.

The planned village envisions 39 homes, equally divided into three ownership categories. The homes will range from studios to 4-bedroom family homes, depending upon the demand of the pre-subscribers and members. Located right on Gordon Park, RTC living has access to the river, hiking trails, biking trails, and public transportation. Plans call for just 21 deeded underground parking spaces, a few guest parking spots, and a shared electric car and charging station.

Shared equity Cooperative Housing, similar to the 1970s-formed Riveredge Housing Cooperative at the east end of Chambers Street, will act as an alternative to renting and potentially ready residents for eventual home ownership within RTC. The Cooperative homes will be owned by the cooperative entity, with the residents being members of the cooperative and sharing limited equity.

Designed to address the ever-widening home equity gap between white and BIPOC communities in Milwaukee, about half of the condominium homes will be deed restricted with pricing below actual cost and can then only be sold and re-sold to qualified individuals in accordance with the reduced formula, while still building family wealth through home equity. So a home purchased for 2/3 the cost for example, could only be sold for 2/3 the appraised value. MAACH will be seeking City and private funds to reduce pricing for the below-cost homes. The third ownership category is standard market-rate condo homes.

What makes River Trail Commons unique in Milwaukee is that it will be the city’s first CoHousing community, although there are already five in Madison and nearly 180 in the United States. It is also among the first mixed-CoHousing and Cooperative communities in the United States, which allows for a greater range of incomes among owners than either traditional CoHousing or traditional Cooperative Housing which tend to be more economically homogeneous.

Chief among the RTC village features is what is known as the “Common House” with kitchen and dining facilities for all residents to eat together weekly (and some more frequently). Although all homes will also have their own kitchens, the social interaction is what sets CoHousing and Cooperative Housing apart from standard sub-divisions or condominium buildings where often residents do not even know their neighbors. RTC will operate with the knowledge that “it takes a village” to support each other and our families.

The Common House, a two-story building with a usable green roof overlooking Gordon Park, will also have guest rooms and other shared spaces and amenities. CoHousing takes the little-used portions of traditional homes, such as guest rooms and large holiday dining areas and workshops, and places them in the Common House for shared enjoyment. This enables our private homes to have a smaller square footage than is traditional. “We don’t all need our own lawnmower,” as the saying goes, means that RTC homeowners and Cooperative members share resources, such as for a library and tool room workshop.
At the same time, household budgets realize a saving in everything from shared child care and senior care, to entertainment and transportation costs, freeing up funds for housing purchase.

River Trail Commons will be an “intentional” community, meaning that future owners/residents will plan the housing floor plans and the amenities in the Common House and the construction budget as they are pre-subscribed to move in.

How can you get involved? Let us count the ways:


Future residents who get in early will plan the physical buildings, floor plans, and amenities with the TKWA architects who are designing the village.


Community Organizations and activists are needed to refer potential owners, to hold events and workshops to present the RTC concept and awareness about the housing equity family wealth gap.
Housing groups are needed for financial counselling of potential owners and to qualify households for below-cost homes.


Private financing and donations are needed toward the Cooperative’s down payment and for the deed-restricted below cost homes. There may also be opportunities for investment and rental, depending upon the demand for the homes.


Hold a meeting with your friends and family for a presentation about River Trail Commons.


Hold a meeting at your church or community group for a presentation and to discuss how CoHousing and Cooperative Housing can help close the housing equity wealth gap.


Volunteer your skills for social media, grant writing, marketing circle, children’s circle, socials & entertainment circle, governance circle, recruitment circle – the needs are endless and can be filed by future residents and well-wishers alike.

THE KICK-OFF meeting will be Saturday, October 8th, from 3:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. at the Gordon Park Pavilion.
Who should attend?
Anyone interested in Milwaukee’s shameful housing equity family wealth gap.
Community leaders and organizers interested in inclusive housing in Milwaukee – the nation’s most segregated city.
Families with children, disabled members, and seniors, who could “use a little help from their friends” that comes from living in community.
Households who want the beauty of living on the park, the convenience of living on the trails, and the quality of life that comes from inclusive living.
Milwaukeeans who support CoHousing and Cooperative Housing.