By Cassandra Vinch, Internet Director, WAOW

We’re excited to bring you a brand new series here at Newsline 9. We are opening the doors and giving you the Inn-Side Story to unique and inn-teresting hotels in our state.

“I’d like to welcome you to the Brewhouse Inn and Suites,” said Sue Kinas.

This Milwaukee building has only been a hotel for a little more than a year, but the walls carry a much richer history.

“If you look straight up, you’ll be looking up into one of the six original brew kettles. These were the original kettles. These were put in here in 1882,” Kinas said.

Those six kettles brewed hundreds of barrels of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer a day – but they didn’t always look this way.
“Pabst left town in a very big hurry. They were operating here for many, many years.”

The brewery closed its doors in 1996, leaving an uncertain future for the area. That was until a Milwaukee man bought it in 2006. Then the restoration process began.

“That was part of the preservation project, that as much of the integrity of the original building was kept in tact,” Kinas told Newsline 9.

Many of the walls are part of the original architecture and the columns have been preserved as well. As you can imagine, turning it into a hotel had its challenges.

“It was a huge mix of making sure the original integrity of the building was kept in place, as well as making sure the sustainability of the neighborhood’s needs were met.”

If the brew kettles weren’t enough of an ode to beer, the more than 1,500 bottles on the front desk do the trick.
“All the different beer bottles represent the local breweries in Milwaukee, both old, new, large, small and the craft beers in the area too.”

Construction workers had the tough task of drinking the beer.

Also on the first floor – the Blue Room, which used to be a break room for Pabst employees and their guests.

“The Milwaukee Police Department would come in between their shifts and come and sip the beer and talk to the employees.”
So, it was named the Blue Room after Milwaukee’s finest.

Now, we head upstairs.

“The space you are looking at down here is the original brewing floor. And these were the six brewing kettles that were here.”

Milwaukee visitors who aren’t staying at the hotel say they couldn’t pass up the opportunity to check it out.

“It’s quite awe inspiring to see the original architecture, some of it’s still in place with the brew kettles,” said Curtis Polley from Coerdalene, Idaho.

So we’ve seen the lobby and we’ve seen the former brewery floor. Now it’s time to check out the rooms.

“A lot of the kitchen tables throughout the building are re purposed. And a lot of the headboards in the suites are all re purposed from the building too,” Kinas said.

Pieces of wood left here and there, given new life. There are plenty of rooms to choose from – from standard to king suites – 90 in all.

“One of the things that we always tell everybody when they come for a tour is that they can come and stay here 90 times because we have 90 suites and every time you stay your experience will be great. But it will be different every time.”

The front of the Brewhouse Inn and Suites is no different. The interior may have change, but architects ensured the outside was just as recognizable as it was years ago.

The average room will cost you between $189, up to $459.

2014 Historic Restoration Award Winner Announced, Wisconsin Historical Society

Gorman and Company Inc. of Oregon, Wisconsin, has been awarded the Society’s 2014 Historic Restoration Award for the interior and exterior restoration of The Brewhouse Inn and Suites in downtown Milwaukee.

About the Restoration Award

The award goes to the best restoration work of a Wisconsin historic property that involves comprehensive work to restore a historic building, structure, object, or site.

About the Restoration Project

The project converted the vacant brewhouse, formerly the Pabst Blue Ribbon brewery, into a 90-room, extended stay hotel while maintaining the character of the original brewhouse. The restoration even retained and reused the original copper brew kettles, as seen pictured here.

The restoration was also a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified project for saving or reusing much of the building’s historic fabric. A prime example was making all of the headboards and tables in the suites from salvaged heavy timbers removed from the building during its rehabilitation.

A panel of judges from the Wisconsin Historical Society recommended Gorman and Company for the award, which the Wisconsin Historical Society’s Board of Curators approved at its June meeting.

A Brews Cruise of Milwaukee

By Katie Vaughn, Madison Magazine, May 2014


Nine ways and two days to experience the city’s diverse and historic beer culture


Kick off your trip with a walk into the city’s beer history. A tour of the Captain Frederick Pabst Mansion, a Flemish Renaissance Revival mansion completed in 1892, reveals in beautiful detail what life was like for the sea captain turned beer baron and his family during the Gilded Age. A one-hour group tour takes you through entertaining spaces, bedrooms, service areas and more, with stops to delve into stories about the family, the Pabst Brewing Company and turn-of-the-century Milwaukee.


For a festive lunch or afternoon reprieve, head to the Estabrook Park Beer Garden. Located within the scenic, fifty-acre county park on a bluff running alongside the Milwaukee River, the gathering space opened in 2012, modeled after biergartens in Munich, Germany. Order up a brat or giant pretzel, pick a Hofbräu brew—perhaps a lager, amber, bock or wheat served in a heavy glass mug—and take a seat at one of the picnic tables set beneath shady trees. Stick around to enjoy the live music that starts in the late afternoon and continues into the evening.


Best known for its root beer, Sprecher Brewery also turns out European-style beers. A family-friendly tour moves from the brew house to the aging cellar to bottling room to the sampling tent. But beer lovers should upgrade to a reserve tasting. You’re ushered off to a private room, where you stand at small tables while a guide leads you through samples of ten of Sprecher’s brews paired with artisan cheeses. You’ll soak up a lot of beer knowledge—along with some tasty premier suds.


The most raucous brewery tour in the city is at Lakefront Brewery, also renowned for its green and local efforts and diverse array of brews (including organic and gluten-free varieties). A gregarious guide has you laughing out loud as you pass through the expansive facility, pausing at six different stops for samples. Afterward, continue sipping in the beer hall or, if you’re here on a Friday, make the weekly fish fry your dinner. Just be prepared to abandon your beer-battered cod for a spin on the dance floor when the Brew Haus Polka Kings get things hopping.


For a one-of-a-kind pub crawl, consider the Milwaukee Pedal Tavern both your transportation and entertainment for the night. The sixteen-person, bicycle-powered cart tours a handful of bars in the city’s Historic Third Ward or Walker’s Point neighborhoods. With music blasting, your legs pumping and the cart whizzing down a street, you’re almost disappointed when you have to stop—that is, until you enter a tiny dive, belly up to the bar and ask for an old-school Miller High Life or PBR.


A beer-themed trip deserves beer-themed accommodations, and you’ll find just that at the Brewhouse Inn & Suites. Set in the historic brew house of the Pabst Brewery, which shut its doors in 1996, the ninety-room, all-suite boutique hotel opened last spring. Rooms are airy and modern, with an industrial, steampunk edge. But a highlight is opening your door and looking down into the atrium, which houses five giant copper brew kettles original to the building.


Rise and shine the next day with brunch at Café Benelux, a sprawling yet charming eatery in the Historic Third Ward. Named for the intersection of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg, the café boasts a hearty morning menu featuring beignets, omelets, cinnamon streusel French toast, quiche Lorraine and more. If you’re ready to imbibe, five beers are recommended for brunch, as is the bier mosa made of fresh-squeezed orange juice and High Speed Wit beer from Lowlands Brewing. Nab a spot on the rooftop patio and ease your way into the day.


Cool, creative and nonconformist—these words describe the beers crafted at the Milwaukee Brewing Company as well as their signature “beer in hand” tours. Sip and sample as a friendly guide walks you through the brewery on this casual tour, explaining the processes and passion that go into Booyah, Louie’s Demise, Hop Happy and Polish Moon. You may get to sample what they’ve literally got brewing that day—perhaps something unique like the O-Gii collaboration beer with Milwaukee’s Rishi Tea.


Grab a beer in the most scenic way—via a cruise along the Milwaukee River courtesy of RiverWalk Boat Tours. Enjoy a pint at the local outpost of Rock Bottom Brewery before boarding an open-air boat that deposits you at the Milwaukee Ale House (a three-brewery tour also makes a stop at Lakefront). Order a brew and lounge on the two-story deck, watching boats and passersby strolling the RiverWalk, before your cruise back to Rock Bottom.

Historic Tax Credit Tool Box: Three Historic Tax Credit Developers’ Plans for the Future

By John Tess, Heritage Consulting Group, Novogradac Journal of Tax Credits, March 2014

Since 1976, federal tax incentives have been provided to encourage developers to rehabilitate historic properties rather than replace them. Over the years, the preservation tax incentives program has seen significant changes in incentives. The current federal historic preservation tax incentives program provides a 20 percent historic perseveration tax credit (HTC) for qualified rehabilitation expenditures (QREs) incurred by property owners rehabbing certified historic structures for nonresidential or residential rental uses. A 10 percent HTC is available for older buildings placed in service prior to 1936. In addition, because of the success of the federal program, many local and state incentives have been created throughout the country to assist in rehabilitating historic buildings.

It is generally acknowledged that the federal HTC program has been one of the nation’s most successful and cost-effective urban revitalization programs. The National Trust for Historic Preservation reports that since 1981, the HTC has leveraged nearly $106 billion in private investment, created more than 2.35 million jobs and adapted more than 38,700 buildings.

However, the program’s decades of accomplishment faced a significant challenge in 2012, when a federal appeals court denied federal HTCs to an investor in what has become known as the Historic Boardwalk Hall Case. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) added fuel to the fire when, shortly after the court case, it issued Office of Chief Counsel Memorandum (CCM) 20124002F, which disallowed tax credits claimed by an HTC investor. These two decisions upset the program’s history of success and disrupted many HTC developers’ plans.

Historic Boardwalk Hall and CCM 20124002F     The Novogradac Journal of Tax Credits and other publications have covered the two decisions extensively, but industry stakeholders are still exploring the implications of the latest development, Revenue Procedure 2014-12. In Rev. Proc. 2014-12, released Dec. 30, 2013 and updated Jan. 9, the IRS provided the long-awaited guidance that establishes a safe harbor for HTC equity transactions. As the HTC community reviews that guidance, three major developers share their plans for the future and discuss how the safe harbor affects those plans.

Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants Plans for Growth     Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants was founded in San Francisco in 1981 by Bill Kimpton, an investment banker turned hotelier. Kimpton is generally credited with the introduction of the first boutique hotel and specialty hotel collection in the United States. While Kimpton initially invested in San Francisco, the brand eventually moved into the Pacific Northwest and then across the country. Today, Kimpton owns or manages 62 hotels; more than half of the hotels are in old or historic rehabilitated buildings. Not initially a user of the HTC, Kimpton has found the tax credits to be an essential ingredient in its rehabilitation projects. One of Kimpton’s major historic renovations was the 2000 renovation of Washington, D.C.’s Tariff Building, which is a National Historic Landmark.

Kimpton is in the midst of a period of expansion and growth under the leadership and oversight of CEO and President Michael Depatie. “The time is right to grow our footprint; we will have twice the number of hotels in the next five years,” says Depatie. “Our growth will continue to focus on urban locations and the preservation and restoration of old or historic buildings through adaptive reuse, a practice that has allowed Kimpton to develop and restore prime real estate at the center of bustling urban locations.”

Ben Rowe, Kimpton’s chief financial officer, welcomed the IRS guidance and noted the importance of the HTC in the company’s work. “The Boardwalk situation created a lot of uncertainty in the marketplace, but did not keep us from looking for deals. It’s good to have this situation largely resolved. We expect to see more equity players coming back into the market. Hotel construction is challenging to finance and our historic building conversions would not be feasible without the help of historic tax credits,” Rowe said.

HRI Properties Expects Market to Normalize     Founded in 1982 by Edward B. Boettner and Pres Kabacoff, HRI is headquartered in New Orleans, La. HRI is a full-service real estate development company and is considered a national leader in the historic preservation development community. HRI says it is dedicated to the pursuit of rebuilding neighborhoods and recreating entire communities. Through its subsidiaries, HRI has completed 61 large-scale projects. The projects include 4,854 apartment units, 3,911 hotel rooms and more than 1.2 million square feet of office and retail space and have a total funding value of $1.8 billion. HRI continues its mission by developing technically innovative and aesthetically pleasing landmarks in cities throughout the country.

Hal Fairbanks, HRI’s vice-president of acquisitions, says HRI continues to be aggressive in the marketplace. During the time between the original Boardwalk Hall decision and the release of Rev. Proc. 2014-12, HRI continued to pursue deals under the assumption that the guidance would clarify rather than undermine the ability to use HTC. That is not to say that the market did not slow during the period between the Boardwalk Hall decision and the IRS guidance. Fairbanks noted that while HTC deals continued to be available, the ability to close was tough. Now that the guidance is out, Fairbanks looks forward to the market going back to normal, with some certainty. However, he does note that some investors have been slow to reenter the market place.

Fairbanks says that HRI continues to look for mixed -use projects in urban areas. HRI’s main focuses are the residential and hospitality markets with specialized retailing to support those activities.

Gorman & Company Welcomes Certainty     Gorman & Company was founded in 1984 by Gary Gorman, an attorney turned developer. After graduating from law school in 1980, Gorman represented developers and syndicators who were raising capital from investors. He gained a reputation for crafting complex financial arrangements. Gorman & Company has grown steadily and today the company employs 235 people nationwide with a development portfolio of approximately $560 million. The firm owns and manages nearly 4,000 housing units and manages another 1,100 for other owners, with satellite offices in Phoenix, Miami, Chicago and Milwaukee.

Gorman & Company has carved out a national reputation for downtown revitalization and historic renovations using HTCs and other creative financing vehicles. The firm often finds itself approached by cities interested in the renovation of old factory districts or troubled inner-city neighborhoods.

Tom Capp, Gorman & Company’s chief operating officer, said that the diversity of the company’s projects protected it somewhat from the effects of the Boardwalk Hall case and that he did not notice it to the same extent as other developers. “Every one of our deals generally have quite complex structures with many funding sources,” Capp said. “With resolution of the Boardwalk issues and the new guidance we are sure that it will help put more certainty in our historic deals. Without the credits it makes many of these difficult, if not impossible.”

Regarding growth, Capp said “over the last several years we have been expanding our market area. While we do new construction, we especially like historic deals.” Gorman & Company is continually looking for new deals. The company likes public-private partnerships and prefers housing, although the company finished its first hotel deal in Milwaukee at the Old Pabst Brewery site last year.

Conclusion     It’s safe to say that developers will be developers. Being the chameleons and risk-takers they are, developers will adjust to the marketplace and continue to develop regardless of market condition changes. With respect to the rehabilitation of historic properties, the developers quoted here are optimistic about the market. However, they also feel that historic rehabilitation projects would not occur if not for the federal HTC program. While other incentives are helpful in making these projects work, without the federal HTC program, they could not fill the critical financing gaps involved in rehabilitation projects. Although the Boardwalk Hall case may have temporarily cooled investors’ appetites for HTCs, it does not seem to have changed developers’ appetites for deals. The IRS’ safe harbor ruling has provided the framework for future deals and should foster a period of new projects.

John M. Tess is president and founder of Heritage Consulting Group, a national firm that assists property owners seeking local, state and federal historic tax incentives for the rehabilitation of historic properties. Since 1982 Heritage Consulting Group has represented historic projects totaling more than $3 billion in rehabilitation construction. He can be reached at 503-228-0272 or jmtess@heritage-consulting.com.

Where to Go in 2014

By:  Jetsetter, January 15, 2014

The New Year brings renewed wanderlust and a fresh haul of vacation days to put to good use. We’ve tapped our top travel insiders, got the scoop from destination experts and engaged in some heated office debates to present our 14 hottest destinations for 2014.

Number 4, Milwaukee, WI:

On the banks of Lake Michigan, Wisconsin’s largest city is going through a quiet renaissance while hanging on to its Old World outlook. In the city’s rapidly changing Downtown, Brewhouse Inn & Suites stole the hipster crown from the Iron Horse Hotel when it opened in the old Pabst Blue Ribbon brewery in May, while a short hop south, the historic Third Ward District is seeing ever-growing foot traffic along its riverside walks and in newly popular restaurants — crowds that will only grow when Kimpton makes its debut in 2015. South of the river, the Walker’s Point area is becoming an unofficial foodie hub, with Great Lakes Distillery, Indulgence Chocolatiers, the cultish Purple Door Ice Cream and Braise Restaurant all featuring on Bon Appetit’s Top 50 list this year.

Old Pabst Brewery gets new life as beer lover’s dream hotel

By Nate Kuester, Channel 58, Milwaukee, WI
December 16, 2013

MILWAUKEE — In 1996, the pabst brewing complex shut down. Suddenly ending production of one of the most iconic American beers at the facility. Now a unique hotel experience awaits the beer enthusiast.

“[The hotel is] Housed in the former Pabst brewery building,” said Brewhouse Inn & Suites general manager Peter Northard.

That’s where you’ll find the Brewhouse Inn and Suites, in the heart of Milwaukee. The brewery facility is now home to a truly unique hotel experience that celebrates the beer-crafting history.

“The building was actually built in 1882,” said Northard. “So this operated from 1882 to 1996 as the building in the Pabst complex of Milwaukee, that is actually where they brewed the beer.”

The amount of restoration and work to preserve the original life of the building is obvious from the amazing stained glass window–depicting King Gambrinus, to the brewing equipment still present, to the overall feel right from the moment you walk throught the front door.

“We actually took 1,530 bottles of beer, that our construction crew graciously agreed to empty for us, [and] we cut the bottoms off of them,” said Northard. “And we put those on the fromt of the front desk. So that way, it looks very much like a bar with 1,530 bottoms of beer bottles.”

Elements from the brewery appear even in the most unlikely of places.

“We basically took this old growth lumber, that was used for beams, and we repurposed it to all the kitchen tables in the guest rooms as well as the tables in our Jackson’s Blue Ribbon pub,” said Northard.

Of course, if you’re going to re-purpose the old Pabst brewery, then you have to have your priorities straight as to what you are going to include. And Northard told CBS 58 there wes no question about i where the priority stood.

“A bar was number one,”he said.” “It was essential. It had to be. You cannot reopen the Pabst brewhouse without a bar, serving Pabst Blue Ribbon.”

The work to preserve the former glory of the facilty, in its new incarnation, carries particular appeal for those who knew the brewery in it’s past life. That’s apparent when you visit Jackson’s Blue Ribbon Pub, located in an area that was once referred to as the ‘blue room.’

“We have Pabst workers, former Pabst workers come in here all the time,” said Jackson’s Blue Ribbon Pub co-owner Mark Zierath. “Actually current workers as well. And they’re all just completely blown away by the space. … It’s great to hear the history of these buildings, and how they once produced the great beer here.”

“To hear the stories that they tell about their times in the brewhouse, and just to see in their eyes how they’re kind of reliving a lot of the past, has just been a really great thing to witness,” said Northard.

“Everyone knew someone who worked at Pabst, or had a relative that worked at Pabst, and that’s the beer I drank when I came of age,” said Zierath.

The unique hotel, owned by Wisconin’s Gorman & Company, Inc., recently won a national ‘Timmy’ award — acknowledging their work for rehabilitating the historic buildings at the pabst complex. you can find out more information about the brewhouse inn & suites here.

Brewhouse Inn offers outpourings of luxury, history

By Molly Snyder, onmilwaukee.com, December 5, 2013

Perhaps the coolest part of staying at a hotel built inside a former brewery is that it really feels like you’re staying at a hotel built inside a former brewery.

From the moment we walked into the Brewhouse Inn Suites – in the former Pabst brewhouse – we were swept up in brewing history.

At times, it actually felt like we were on a brewery tour instead of an overnight excursion in a brewery hotel. This is, in part, due to the seven brewing kettles which remain in the building and are the heart of the hotel.

Directly over the check-in desk, there’s a kettle doubling as a polished dome in the ceiling and six more kettles stand in the atrium of the hotel.

Even though it has been more than 17 years since beer was actually brewed in the Pabst building – known as building #20 – the kettles give the space a very active, industrial feel, almost as if they might spontaneously fire up at any moment.

The atrium also features a large stained glass window depicting King Gambrinus, the unofficial patron saint of brewing, and an assortment of vintage furniture to pay homage to the brewski king, watch vintage Pabst commercials or just hang out in the history-rich splendor.

The hotel has 90 guest rooms that are either one- or two-bedroom suites. The sixth (top) floor features the Baron suites which have terraces and incredible views.

The rooms run between $189 and $399 per night and are designed for short- or long-term guests with an almost full kitchen stocked with a stovetop, full-sized fridge and an assortment of cooking and eating utensils.

“While the hotel was designed for guests staying longer than five days, it is a great location for girls’ weekends, family gatherings, wedding groups and corporate groups looking for a unique hotel experience that speaks ‘Milwaukee,’” says Sue Kinas of the Brewhouse Inn.

The steampunky decor includes exposed hardware, deep brown tones, distressed furniture and pipes repurposed as towel holders. Plus, the tables and headboards are made from wood originally harvested in Sheboygan in the 1880s.

There are plenty of modern luxuries, too. The bed, for example, was one of the most comfortable we’ve ever slept on and the shower was perfect in pressure and temperature.

Guests are also invited to a continental breakfast in the Blue Room, which was the brewery’s break room that included beer taps. Today, Stone Creek coffee is served instead, but the centerpieces on the table are Pabst bottles used as vases for stalks of wheat.

Quite possibly the Brewhouse’s best feature, however, is the number of windows. Originally constructed in 1882, the brewhouse required more than 300 windows at the time because the city had limited electricity. Today, the plethora of windows provide an incredible amount of natural light in the space and great views of Downtown.

“The Brewhouse is a one-of-a-kind property designed to celebrate the history of Milwaukee’s brewing and reignite the passion of beer and remind everyone about Milwaukee’s roots,” says Kinas.

The Brewhouse Inn & Suites is on the National Registry of Historic Places and part of The Brewery, a sustainable neighborhood that is LEED Platinum certified.

The complex was purchased by Joseph Zilber in 2006. The $20 million construction project began in October 2011 and the hotel opened in late April 2013.

Jackson’s Blue Ribbon Pub – which was once the milling house known as building #21 – is connected to the hotel and offers a large selection of food items, including an excellent Friday night fish fry.

The space has 30-foot ceilings, a tin ceiling, large screens for game watching and a full bar. (Note the hilarity of the Pabst tapper, which was once a railing spindle and is massive in comparison to the others.)

The other appealing aspect of the Brewhouse is the location. The restored buildings – and those currently under construction – give the gritty, sprawling space a rush of warmth and fresh life. It feels both eerie and abandoned as well as urban and bustling.

Best Place, which once housed Pabst’s offices, is located across the street from the hotel and is well worth a visit for beer drinking and more history. Building owner Jim Haertel gives an extremely entertaining tour.

And if you’re not too Pabst-ed out, the Pabst Mansion – the 1892 home of Capt. Pabst – is just a mile away.

History buffs and beer geeks will most appreciate the experience because of their ability to access so much of Milwaukee’s brewing history. The many artifacts and literature to examine make the hotel part museum.

“Guests interested in history, beer and an environment where they will be treated with customer service otherwise long gone will find The Brewhouse a delight,” says Kinas.

Former real estate lawyer Gary Gorman overcomes early challenges to build successful business

By Tom Daykin, Journal Sentinel, September 30, 2013

Gary Gorman was a real estate attorney when he decided he’d rather be a developer, instead of the guy who gives developers legal advice.

Gorman & Co. was launched in 1984. Within a few years the firm was focusing on apartment buildings, aimed at lower income renters, partly financed with federal affordable housing tax credits, along with projects that use historic preservation tax credits. Today, located in the Dane County community of Oregon, the firm has 230 employees, operates dozens of properties in Wisconsin, Illinois, Florida and Arizona, and annually develops apartment buildings and other projects costing around $75 million.

The firm’s Milwaukee-area developments include the new Brew House Inn & Suites, a hotel created at the former Pabst brew house, along with Blue Ribbon Lofts, apartments developed within the brewery’s former keg house. The company also plans for another apartment development at the Pabst complex, now known as The Brewery.

Gorman recently met at the Brew House Inn to talk about his early challenges as a developer — including a partner who was a cocaine addict — how the firm grew, and its new foray into the hotel sector. Here’s an edited transcript of that interview.

Q.How did you become a developer?

A. When I got out of law school (in 1980) I was hired by a firm and promoted by that law firm as somebody who knew something about real estate syndication, which is just a fancy term for putting together a group of investors to do deals. I represented developers and syndicators for four years.

Then they offered me a partnership. And I thought, if I become a partner, then I’m going to stay. And it really wasn’t what I wanted to do. I was more intrigued by the business side. So, June of ’84, I left the law firm. I teamed up with two other guys (including a marketing expert). One guy that was older, more experienced and allegedly had more money.

Q.Did it turn out he didn’t have any money?

A. Well, you’re guessing the rest of the story. Our basic strategy was that we were going to put existing properties under contract, we were going to raise the equity capital by selling limited partnership shares, buy the properties, have somebody else manage them, and then we sell them after five years and take a piece of the profits. That was the idea.

So, within about six months of leaving the law firm, the marketing guy and I started seeing these letters coming in from collection agencies, and dunning letters from banks and other creditors to this older guy. The bottom line is he had this white powder problem that I didn’t know about. Should have done better due diligence. His frequent trips to Jamaica were not just to lay in the sun.

Q.What happened?

A. The marketing guy and I left him and formed our own little shop. And we did one deal in 1985 called Seminary Park Apartments, in Evansville, Wis. It was a small deal, 24 units. It was a historic rehab of abandoned school buildings that had previously been a private school for boys. So it had been empty for a long time.

It was immensely complicated for a small deal, and we probably made about $1.50 an hour. But that created a track record. At the end of that deal, the marketing guy said, “I can’t live like this any more. I never know if we’re going to have the deal, not have the deal. I don’t know if I’m going to have a paycheck.” (So the partner left the firm.)

Q.How did it feel to be on your own?

A. It felt a little lonely. Then tax reform started heating up and it eventually passed in 1986. That changed the tax code completely, and it eliminated a lot of the benefits of investing in real estate. But it created a new tax credit, the affordable housing tax credit. So I thought maybe I could work with that.

Q.Did you just immediately think there’s just unlimited opportunity there?

A. No, God no. I thought: Would this ever work? And who would ever invest seeking this credit? And should I go back and beg my senior partner at the law firm to take me back? All those thoughts were going through my head. And there were times when I literally ran out of money.

I worked with a law firm and an accounting firm to put together four private placements in 1987 that were raising capital for (tax credit) deals that another builder built because I didn’t have the capacity to build anything. It was a lot of work.

I got a call one day (in 1987 from Boston Financial). They had a fund that had raised money to invest in these tax credits, and would I be interested in having that fund invest as the equity investor?

Q.And you said, “Would I?”

A. I kind of held the phone away like, is this really happening? Absolutely, I wanted to.

Q.With the advent of the fund, I assume your life got a lot easier in terms of financing.

A. It did. Trying to find investors that put in $5,000 apiece a year was tough. The first institutional deal was a big break-through.

Q.At what point were you starting to do multiple projects a year?

A. I think we did two a year in ’88 and ’89. (As the firm grew, it added in-house property management and construction divisions. In 1995, it hired Tom Capp, a former Fitchburg mayor who is now Gorman & Co.’s chief operating officer.)

Q.Was adding Tom a turning point?

A. It really was. It added a level of political sophistication that, frankly, I didn’t have. He really knows how to work with city planners, mayors, elected officials, plan commissions. He knew that mentality. He had a greater level of patience with the political process.

Then we started to grow, did more projects. All of the equity was from institutional investors. Then we thought we would internalize the architectural function. We did that in ’99. At that point we sort of had the bones of an integrated development firm. That’s where we are today.

Q.What percentage of your business comes from affordable housing developments?

A. Probably 85%.

Q.How did you first get involved in doing the Brew House Inn & Suites?

A. (During a presentation to some Chinese government officials who were visiting Madison, Gorman was impressed with the interpreter, University of Wisconsin-Madison law student Ying Chan. Gorman hired him as an intern.) I was paying him, but I really didn’t know what he was doing. He was going to seminars here and there, and then he left when he graduated from law school.

He called me about six months later and said that he had been successful raising money through this EB-5 program (in which foreign citizens receive green cards in return for job-creating investments in the United States) for an immigration attorney out of the state of Washington who had never done a development deal before. I said, Ying, if you can raise money for someone who has never done anything before in the development area, it ought to be easy for you to raise money for us.

We had done Blue Ribbon Lofts, and we thought, where can we find another historic (preservation) deal that was of some size? Talking to the Zilber folks (owners of the Pabst complex), they pointed us to this building. The reason it’s a hotel rather than an apartment building is that to attract EB-5 capital you have to create jobs. A hotel and (restaurant) produce a lot more jobs than an apartment building.

Q.You’ve never done a hotel before, right?

A. No, but we have a regional manager, Laura Narduzzi, who’s got 25 years experience (in the hotel industry). I completely defer to her judgment on designing the hotel, running the hotel. I’ve stayed in a thousand of them but I don’t know anything about running them. I’m learning a little bit now, though.

Q.What have you learned?

A. The staffing level is much higher than an apartment building. The service level is huge. You have to have skilled, well-paid people on site, all the time.

Q.Are you making money?

A. We’re doing OK. Is it belching cash? No, not in the early phases. But we’re doing a lot better than our projections showed.

Q.Are you going to do other hotel investments?

A. We have a deal in Kenosha, called Heritage House. It’s a historic building. We’re about to convert that into a boutique historic hotel. I just made a presentation to the mayor of Rockford, Ill., and his staff on a project there that would be a historic hotel combined with a conference center. I made a presentation in Butte, Mont., with a concept of a similar combination of a historic hotel and a conference center. It’s opened up another area for us.

Q.But you’re going to continue to primarily be an apartment developer, right?

A. Yeah, that’s our core competency.