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There’s no questions about it: New housing has the power to propel an emerging neighborhood from darkness to light. But developer Gorman & Co. is taking that premise further, adding traditional housing units to revive a tired area. Case in point: The $12.5 million Park East Enterprise Lofts, a live/work community designed to attract and retain entrepreneurs who will help drive the neighborhood’s social and economic vitality. Residents range from wedding planners to graphic artists.

“Just having housing and a new development in an area contributes to a neighborhood and is helpful,” says Tom Capp, chief operating officer of Oregon, Wis.-based Gorman & Co. “But when we add apartments that go for a psychographic instead of a demographic, we really are brining in folks who are interesting. It’s interesting urban situations and interesting people that attract others to the area.”

Park East is the first residential project to grace a redeveloping neighborhood jus north of downtown Milwaukee. The site was a former major downtown expressway spur that the city removed to make way for urban living.

The project fosters a sense of community not only in the surrounding neighborhood and city but also within its own walls. The building’s design encourages networking opportunities for it residents via both intimate and large conference rooms that accommodate a variety of needs, a 16-person presentation theater, and several cyber lounges ideal for events and meetings. “The whole rationale and design of the development is to have all the amenities help facilitate running consulting businesses,” Capp says.

The project features a mix of apartments and townhouse-style residences on a little more than an acre of land with 85 one, two, and three-bedroom units, 75 percent of which are offered at below market rate. The street level includes 17 units with storefront entrances, as well as a mix of amenities, common area, and retail space. The project opened 100 percent full in late 2006 with a waiting list of 130. “Park East definitely struck a nerve in the marketplace,” Capp says.

Capp believes this live/work formula, combined with mixed-income housing and retail, will strike a nerve in other cites too, as a way to spur economic development and growth. Gorman & Co. is talking to a handful of communities who have expressed interest in the approach, while other developers have followed the firms’ lead in downtown Milwaukee. A laundry list of buildings, from hotels and more housing to the world headquarters of a Fortune 500 company, wants to join the neighborhood.