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Devin D. Thorpe

Devin Thorpe

Reclaiming Milwaukee’s Distressed Northside Neighborhoods

Groundbreaking Public Private Partnership Spearheaded by Gorman & Company Provides Job Training for Previously Incarcerated Individuals and Renovates Blighted Foreclosed Homes

Gorman & Company’s multi-phased $65 million Northside Housing Initiative has rescued 330 tax foreclosed in five fragile neighborhoods and has created a successful workforce development initiative under the Milwaukee Builds program that is designed to provide previously incarcerated individuals with pre-apprenticeship training for core construction trades.

Press Release – Milwaukee, WI — September 7, 2017 — A bold workforce development program, Milwaukee Builds that targets job training in the construction trades for previously incarcerated individuals, is an integral part of a multi-staged $65 million public/private partnership the Northside Housing Initiative (NHI) spearheaded by Gorman & Company, Inc. (Gorman) Northcott Neighborhood House, the City of Milwaukee and the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA). NHI is battling rampant unemployment and the detritus of foreclosures in five historic neighborhoods on Milwaukee’s fragile near Northside. The workforce-training program that was part of the recently completed eighth phase of the NHI, the Century City Housing Initiative, achieved a compelling 75% success rate for the participants in completing the innovative program and obtaining construction job placements.

Since breaking ground in 2007, Gorman’s NHI – now embarking on its ninth phase, has reclaimed and renovated 330 distressed properties, touching over 200 blocks. In the process, NHI has helped stabilize Milwaukee’s historic neighborhoods of Sherman Park, Washington Park, Metcalf Park, North Division and Amani, and reclaimed these properties for Milwaukee’s tax rolls. Each phase of the scattered site NHI involves purchasing foreclosed vacant lots, homes, or duplexes from the City of Milwaukee. The properties, designated for families with household incomes at or below 60% of Milwaukee County’s median income with an opportunity for eventual homeownership, include renovated and newly constructed one-family, two-family and multi-family structures.

At the heart of the multi-phase NHI is Milwaukee Builds, a workforce-training program designed to help area residents build family-supporting careers, which has provided over 300 formerly incarcerated men and women with training and jobs in the construction trades.The purpose of Milwaukee Builds, which has continued to evolve and progress since its inception, is to provide participants with career building skills so they can meet the huge demand for labor within the principal trades in the construction industry.

In the latest phase of the scattered site NHI just completed, the Century City Homeowners Initiative, (comprised of 40 new and renovated affordable single-family homes and duplexes), Gorman targeted tax foreclosed properties around the new Century City Business Park. During this phase, Gorman partnered with the Northcott Neighborhood House to recruit a class of 40 participants reentering society after incarceration and placed them in a pre-apprenticeship project that focused on training them for the core construction trades of carpentry, electrical plumbing and HVAC.

The enriched six-month long pilot project which combined hands on professional training, classroom instruction, field work, and supportive vocational services resulted in professional apprenticeship opportunities in the construction industry for the trainees who successfully completed the program. In the end, 32 of 40 participants in the class graduated from the program and earned industry job placements paying no less than $15 an hour.

Tony A. Kearney Sr., project director Northcott Neighborhood House, Inc. described the positive ramifications the Milwaukee Builds job training initiative has on the future employability of the participants and in uplifting their lives:

“The employment and training initiative developed by Northcott Neighborhood House and Gorman and Company has a direct and positive impact on some of the most distressed neighborhoods in the City of Milwaukee,” remarked Tony A. Kearney Sr., project director Northcott Neighborhood House, Inc. “The fact that the program provides employment opportunities to residents (many of whom have felony convictions) that includes access to industry certifications and academic accreditation greatly improves their employability and their quality of life and helps to reduce crime.”


Foreclosures hit many Northern and Midwestern cities hard including Milwaukee, particularly the City’s Northside where hundreds of abandoned and boarded up houses that were once proud homes for waves of ethnic groups, disappeared from the tax rolls and became magnets for crime, plummeted surrounding property values, strained city resources and, finally, devastated their fragile neighborhoods. Compounding the volatile mix –a dismal employment environment where 1/5 (20%) of working age Northside residents do not have jobs.

To combat chronic unemployment as part of NHI’s critical effort to revive and stabilize these neighborhoods, Gorman partnered with Northcott Neighborhood House, a local non-profit organization, on a unique reentry workforce program, Milwaukee Builds, which was designed to train men and women (many of whom were previously incarcerated) and provide them with jobs at the homes sites being renovated as part of NHI. The participants are trained in soft skills and earn certifications related to various skilled construction trades. NHI is part of a multi-faceted economic development strategy to infuse these distressed neighborhoods with new life and to provide a safer environment surrounding the City of Milwaukee’s new Century City Business Park.

About Gorman & Company

Gorman & Company is nationally recognized for revitalizing communities and urban neighborhoods through innovative public-private partnerships. As a trusted partner and respected industry leader since 1984, Gorman specializes in downtown renewal, the preservation of affordable housing, workforce housing and the adaptive reuse of significant historic landmarks. Gorman has offices is based in Madison, WI with offices in Milwaukee, Chicago, IL; Denver, CO; Miami, FL and Phoenix, AZ.

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