MARINETTE — In a dusty lot enclosed by chain link fences on Main Street near downtown Marinette, the skeleton of a new construction, partially concealed under a skin of blue and white Tyvek, is taking shape in what will soon be the Trolley Station Terrace apartment community. Mayor Steve Genisot, along with community members and partners in the project, celebrated the complex’s halfway-to-completion point Tuesday in a topping out ceremony.

The Trolley Station Terrace will be a 45-apartment community with 38 apartments designated as affordable housing units aimed toward individuals who earn up to 60% of Marinette’s median income. Median income in Marinette County is $50,330 for households and $28,282 per capita, according to statistics gathered between 2015 and 2019 by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Construction of the building will cost approximately $7.5 million with an additional $2.5 million allocated for architects, designers and consultants.

Providing affordable housing for Marinette residents has long been an issue, according to Genisot.

Chief Executive Officer of the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) Joaquin Altoro, who spoke at the event, recounted his conversations with Genisot regarding their approach to addressing this issue.

“There was a time of awkward silence between us because we were just like, this is a really big issue,” Altoro said. “How do we house people that have opportunity, that have potential for a job, that have potential for mobility in their life to support families?”

Although the population of Marinette has decreased by about 3.9% for the city and 3.4% for the county since the last census in 2010, an influx of workers for the Fincantieri Marinette Marine (FMM) company, the largest employer in Marinette, as well as for other companies in the area has put a strain on housing in Marinette in recent years, according to the mayor.

Fincantieri Marine Group Director of Communications Eric Dent said that an estimated 1,000 jobs will be associated with FMM’s 2020 contract with the U.S. Navy to design and build a Constellation-class guided missile frigate. While some of these jobs have already been filled or are located in other areas, most positions will be phased in over the next few years in Marinette as the design portion of the project wraps up and construction of the frigate begins, according to Dent. He said that the company is starting to bring in more blue-collar workers and will ramp up hiring at the end of the year and into 2022. Senior Manager of Public Affairs and Government Relations at FMM Bethany Skorik said the company will also maintain its current full-time workforce of 1,500 individuals.

But much of this workforce is local, and FMM plans to recruit more workers both from within Marinette County as well as greater Wisconsin and Michigan, according to Skorik. She said it was unclear how many of FMM’s workers may qualify for and live in the community once it is finished.

That being said, Marinette faces challenges in providing affordable housing for individuals already living in the area. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 11.5% of individuals in Marinette County live in poverty. This number increases to 18.3% just within the City of Marinette. Taking into consideration the percentage of people who live above the poverty line but earn less than Marinette’s median income, the county is dealing with a sizable demographic that could benefit from the affordable housing units in the Trolley Station Terrace.

President and Chief Executive Officer of NEWCAP Cheryl Detrick, who spoke at the ceremony and has been closely involved in the Trolley Station Terrace project, spoke to this need:

“Our mission is to move people from poverty to opportunities and economic security, while enhancing community development,” Detrick said. “Projects like this one are important cornerstones of this mission.”