Lofts let renters live above the shop

PARK EAST ENTERPRISE PROJECT SERVES AS HOME AND WORKPLACE FOR ENTREPRENEURS

Amber Polk moved into her new three-bedroom apartment at Park East Enterprise Lofts this week.

It’s not just the $985-a-month rent she likes. It’s everything that’s available downstairs to help her run her business as an event planner.

The amenities include a conference room for meetings with employees or customers, a room for media presentations, and a business center with computers, printers and cubicles.

The idea behind the project is to offer a place that serves as both a home and work location for people running businesses in economically disadvantaged areas. They live upstairs but use the office space and equipment downstairs as needed.

“I definitely envision myself utilizing all of those spaces in different areas of my business,” Polk said.

Park East Enterprise Lofts, a $12.5 million, 85-unit project on Milwaukee’s near north side, was heralded by Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton on Friday as an example of how public-private partnerships can help advance minority entrepreneurship. The project received $6.4 million in financing from the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority and $7.5 million, spread over 10 years, in tax credits from the state housing agency.

She said the tax credits, which are sold to investors to raise money for affordable-housing projects, will “help ensure that Milwaukee enjoys growth, that opportunities for the area’s entrepreneurs are abundant, and this city prospers.”

The live-and-work project at 1407 N. King Drive was built by Madison-based developer Gorman & Co. Inc. Almost $1.5 million in contracts were awarded to 10 minority businesses that participated in building the project.

The four-story building opened in July and is about 80% leased, said Chris Laurent, senior development manager for Gorman & Co. The building features apartments with one to three bedrooms. Laurent said rents range from $540 to $1,300 monthly.

Gorman will maintain an office in the building, and a coffee or sandwich shop is likely to lease space in a retail corner of the bottom floor, Laurent said.

Laurent said not everyone who rents an apartment at the Park East Enterprise Lofts runs a home-based business.

“But we are actively targeting those folks,” Laurent said.

Tenants in the building are able to use the business facilities on a reservation basis at no additional cost, Laurent said.

“What we’re trying to do there is provide capacity for people who are starting out their careers to do that without having to incur a lot of extra costs,” Laurent said.

WHEDA spokeswoman Kate Venne said the Park East Enterprise Lofts are perfect for entrepreneurs who do a lot of work at their home but sometimes need professional space.

“People can really do business on site,” she said.