While serving on the Wisconsin Housing
& Economic Development Authority board in the mid-1980s, Scott Fergus
realized that the rising cost of housing was pushing home ownership beyond the reach of many young people.
It was that realization that drove him into nonprofit affordable housing development, where he
has built a reputation leading prominent Waukesha organizations like C-CAP L.L.C. and Community Housing Initiative Inc.
"I wanted to make sure that I could keep home ownership very much alive because home ownership anchors a neighborhood," he
is continuing to bridge that gap in home ownership through a for-profit venture called Key Bridge Group Inc.
The Waukesha firm's first proposed project in Milwaukee --- First Place on the River in the 5th Ward -- is designed to make condominium ownership more affordable for today's young professionals, he
All of those developments were catalysts for further redevelopment of the area, Fergus
"We view the 5th Ward as probably one of the most exciting areas of redevelopment in the Milwaukee area," Fergus
City officials see First Place and other condo projects as generating renewed interest among developers, and residents, in the neighborhood.
"This project (First Place), in conjunction with others, will create a cluster that will become a catalyst for additional development," said Roseann St. Aubin, communications director for the Milwaukee Department of City Development
As the son of a home builder, Fergus
has been working in the home building trades for most of his
life.But his development interest was sparked when, after working in the family business, he was elected state representative for the 61st Assembly District representing Racine in 1984.During his three terms, he served as chairman or member on several committees, including a role as chair of the Committee on Housing, Securities and Corporate Policy.He also served on the board of directors of the Wisconsin Housing & Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) and Forward Wisconsin Inc.It was while serving on the board of WHEDA that he came across housing data that showed that the average age of first-time home buyers had shifted from about 25 to the mid-30s.
The data suggested that housing prices and the overall cost-of-living was making people save money longer before buying houses.
Creating optionsThe housing issue led Fergus to keep a hand in the housing industry, working as vice president-real estate finance, for the Wisconsin Realtors Association, after leaving office of his own volition in 1990, he said.In 1994, he established C-CAP, an affordable housing development organization in Waukesha, and would become executive director of a similar organization, Community Housing Initiative, in 1995.
"He's a very aggressive, hard-driving developer," Ries said of Fergus
...But it was C-CAP's first development, Phoenix Heights in Waukesha, that taught Fergus that in order to foster growth in a neighborhood, there needed to be more income diversity among its residents.
The Phoenix Heights subdivision, with a limited price range for its 75 homes, was less successful in that regard, he
"It didn't allow for as much diversity" as he's
seen in some Chicago neighborhoods, Fergus
said."Every development that we've had subsequent to that has expanded the price range."Fergus
also makes a keen effort to ensure than each development suits the neighborhood, according to colleagues."Scott's approach to affordable housing is market-oriented," said Robert Schwarz, vice president of development for C-CAP.
expects swift approval for First Place from the Milwaukee Common Council
.If that happens, Key Bridge
could begin construction as early as this winter, although the tentative starting date remains the spring of 2005.He
hopes to open by mid-2006.Key Bridge
, which is planning a second Milwaukee condo development at 601 E. Ogden Ave., will remain Fergus'
key portal into the Milwaukee development market.Buy the firm is considering development opportunities elsewhere, even out of state, he