Changing Communities

Assisting in community economic revival through mixed-income housing

With a strong commitment to public-private partnerships, Gorman & Company is making a difference in the urban renewal and affordable housing fields. The Oregon. Wisconsin-based firm is a recognized leader in affordable housing and urban renewal, specializing in the creation of mixed-income housing that is almost always part of the overall community’s economic redevelopment plan.

One of the company’s current projects, Grand River Station, is a mixed-income, mixed-use development in La Crosse, Wisconsin, that integrates the city’s regional transit center, retail and rental apartments. The project has showcased Gorman & Company’s ability to work with various entities to create a plan to suit the community’s needs.

“Even before the hurricane, the residents were living in poor conditions, so the fundamental impact on the residents is that they have brand-new housing. The demand for people getting into that development has increased ten-fold.”

COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT

“This has been a perfect example of working in partnership with a community: he says. “The city of La Crosse wanted a transit station built at the base of the building, and then we developed mixed-income, multifamily units above the transit center. This project has been jointly planned for years and has been placed al a key location of the downtown area.”

The development’s 72 apartments will be geared toward artists and entrepreneurs, and will include living and workspace. Fifty-nine of the units will be affordable for residents earning 30, 50 and 60% of La Crosse County’s median income, but the remaining 28 will have no income restrictions.

The project required a high level of coordination between Gorman & Company and the city of La Crosse, particularly during construction. With each organization building a different phase of the project, there needed to be transparency throughout the work of both.

“We had to make sure schedules were in-sync and make sure our bases were covered on many different levels.” Capp says. ยท’It really involved a much higher level of communication, scheduling and liming.”

When finished, amenities will include a business center, artists’ workspaces, an art gallery, a theater, fitness room and a green roof with a patio area. The ground floor will contain retail space and a 10.000 square-foot transit center that will serve as a hub for transportation in downtown La Crosse.

“This project had been identified by the city as the number one catalytic project for rebuilding that side of downtown,” he says. “We have played that role many times, of coming in and helping a city address its top priority.”

REVITALIZING EMERALD PINES

The second major project Gorman & Company is working on is Emerald Pines in Gulfport, Mississippi. This development, formerly known as Edgewood Manor, became a symbol of people being left behind in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

“We were known for doing several signature projects that had rebuilt existing affordable housing, which is why we were the ones 10 step in,” he says. “When investors and the state knew that it had to be rebuilt, our name was brought up to do it because of that history and experience.”

The building had been in poor shape for years, but the hurricane completely ravaged the property. At the time, many residents refused to leave because they couldn’t find alternative housing, despite being without roofs, windows or utilities. In response, Gorman & Company stepped in to conduct a major revitalization effort.

“Even before the hurricane, the residents were living in poor conditions, so the fundamental impact on the residents is that they have brand-new housing,” Capp says. “The demand for people getting into that development has increased ten-fold.”

The building consists of 120 apartments in 15 buildings. II will include a new 1,700 square-foot community center with laundry, a computer center and a fitness area. Other new additions include walkways, a picnic pavilion and a playground Mea.

“Because of the way in which Emerald Pines was damaged and the way people lived in it, the development became pretty famous and a poster child for how everyone failed poor residents after Katrina,” Capp says. “The management of the development disappeared, the government was not there with temporary housing and people were living for months and months in horrific conditions, long after utilities had been turned off.”

The situation in the area was so bad that it garnered national media attention. The development was featured on the front page of The New York Times, as well as on Oprah and Anderson Cooper 360.

Revitalizing Emerald Pines was not without its challenges. When construction began in September 2008, it was determined that many of the walls were not as structurally sound as they were thought to be after Hurricane Gustav barreled through the area, adding 10 construction costs. And. in October 2008. The project lost some of its funding, resulting in a $2 million shortfall.

Gorman & Company was able to overcome the funding shortfall, receiving Tax Credit Assistance program funds from the state of Mississippi. The company also received tax-exempt bonds, additional tax credits, insurance proceeds and Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago Affordable Housing Program funding.

“We are almost always arm-in-arm with the city or the local community where we work as we apply for funding, so it is a very practical partnership and our mixed-income housing depends on a series of successful applications,” Capp says. “Our community partners always playa really large role in that, and are also the ones who give us a high degree of sensitivity to the local market.