After being hard hit by the recession, Milwaukee’s North Side neighborhood is making a comeback.

Leading the recovery is Gorman & Co., a Wisconsin-based developer that's buying boarded-up and vacant homes from the city, rehabilitating them, and putting them back to use.

Under its most recent phase, the team has turned around 172 homes, both single-family residences and duplexes, in about a three-mile diameter, touching four historic neighborhoods. The phase, Northside Housing Initiative II, which was completed this year, is a $34.9 million effort.

“The entire initiative was spurred by the crisis in Milwaukee of tax-foreclosed properties,” says Ted Matkom, Wisconsin market president at Gorman. “These properties are what we call zombie properties. They’re sitting there without life. They’re completely vacant for three to five years.”

After acquiring the houses, Gorman brings them back to life. The team strips the aging buildings down to the framing to abate environmental concerns like lead paint and completely redesigns and updates them. All phases have been financed with low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs). Residents of the single-family homes are given an option to buy after the LIHTCs' initial 15-year compliance period for the debt remaining on the home, which is usually about $35,000.

In addition to providing affordable housing to families earning no more than 60% of the area median income, the project is helping rejuvenate the neighborhood.

Northside Housing Initiative also addresses another problem–unemployment. Gorman and Northcott Neighborhood House have created a workforce development program to train chronically unemployed local residents. The program trains men and women to perform construction and demolition work. After completing training, the participants are hired to work on Northside projects.

With each rehabilitated home, the neighborhood moves a step closer toward recovery.