The Milhaus Difference, Respecting Our Roots

April 03, 2018

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Developers, like it or not, often get a bad rap. Many are money driven and known to bulldoze into a neighborhood or community without a thought. Milhaus, as a developer, can get caught up in this negative reputation. However, we do things a bit differently around here.

Every community is chosen for a specific reason.

Neighborhoods we decide to work with have been specifically picked. For one, location. We search for those unique places that have both a gap in the market and are desirable locations for people to live. We always want to be at the forefront of areas that are the 'next big thing' and just need someone to understand what sub-markets can respond to their current gap.

Take our upcoming project, HITE, in Seminole Heights, one of the most desirable neighborhoods of Tampa, Florida. Deemed as the ‘coolest’ and ‘trendiest’ part of Tampa, homeownership prices have become out of reach for many who would like to live there and unfortunately for them, renting alternatives have been nonexistent. That’s where Milhaus comes in to fill the gap in their market- apartment living to the non-homeowner. The eclectic vibe of restaurants, bars and breweries led Milhaus not just to see the potential and invest where others had not before but, allowed us to quite literally create places for people to live who could not do so before.

HITE, Seminole Heights

These ‘Seminole Height’ like opportunities are exciting, but we also look for neighborhoods that don’t quite yet have an identity or we see a unique potential for growth that others may not.

“I think one of the cool things about Milhaus is that we either go into places that there is almost no identity or, we go somewhere where there are very active neighborhoods that desire something more. Sometimes we have the opportunity to create an entire vibe in an area which is a really cool thing,” Director of Development, Brad Vogelsmeier said.

For example, Marcato, located in Kansas City, was a very opinionated project at first.

“We get a lot of questions about this location. People thought we were crazy. The area has so much social and economic history and it’s suffered from so much disinvestment because of lingering social perceptions. It’s located literally a quarter mile from some of the city’s largest employers and the downtown area, so that was really an opportunity for us to overcome a negative social perception and give a neighborhood a much-needed asset,” Vogelsmeier explained.

Marcato, Kansas City

After choosing a location, Milhaus’ next step of any project is not just the most rewarding and important, but truly the one that sets us apart the most.

Listening, engaging, and collaborating with the communities.

The first step to any development is the zoning process. Many times, developers tend to want to just go through the motions and do the bare minimum. They speak to whoever they need to in the community and then get the project rolling. For us, we do just the opposite.

Meeting with the neighborhoods, communities, and city officials is the most important part of any project to us. In fact, we do this before the zoning process even begins. We don’t believe in coming in and being all-knowing, but rather listening to what people in the community want, don’t want, and understanding the kind of people they are. However many meetings it takes, we will be there. If we have something in mind that a neighborhood does not, we work tirelessly to find a solution. We don’t just do what is required, we do what should be done because it’s the right thing. 

Not only do we meet with the cities, but we really attempt to root ourselves in the community.

For example, as the Marcato project started, Milhaus enlisted the help of local consultants to better understand the area and what the community wanted. Turns out, aside from new places to live, the community wanted local neighborhood retail including an urban grocery store and so, for the last 9 months, that’s exactly what our team has been working on.

“We are actually building separate retail space from our apartments. And we have underwritten that this is not for something like a Starbucks or a Chipotle that could be really profitable, but rather for something that is both unique and beneficial to the project and the neighborhood,” said Vogelsmeier.

We do our best to go above and beyond when coming into new territory. As the developer’s here say, the neighborhoods are really the ones to “champion our projects” and it’s only to everyone’s benefit to listen to them and continuously have great communication. Engaging with neighborhoods is often the last thing that other developers want to do, but here, it’s the first and really what makes us different.

Director of Development. Jake Dietrich, describes another one of our projects, The MK, in northern Indianapolis.

“We knew going into the approval process that the neighborhood wasn’t crazy about what previous developers proposed. So, during our first meeting, we just listened to the neighborhood and asked what specifically they would and wouldn’t like to see come out of the project,” Dietrich said.

After 7 community meetings and continued communication, The MK is currently in development after the team’s willingness to go the extra mile.

The MK, Indianapolis

When asked what makes our communication efforts unique, Development Associate, Jourdan Woodruff responded, “I think that we are very approachable. Even if we are not local, we try our best to be known. Other groups hire development service people to handle legal matters or presentations, but we want to be right at the front of that and get to know the area. And really, that’s just us trying to live out our brand,” Woodruff said.

Unfortunately, many developers out there certainly do work for the sole purpose of bringing in money and often, we get tossed in this negative reputation. Money is a crucial part of any business, of course, but to us, there is so much more to it than that.

“We genuinely care about the cities in which we work.  In some ways, we’re responsible to help a city or neighborhood ‘grow up,’ which often means impacting the existing complexion of neighborhoods. But what sets Milhaus apart, is that we pay attention to what the neighborhood is today, what the people there want now, and what they envision becoming in the future. In this process, sometimes it’s challenging for people to understand how each project plays into the bigger picture - and that’s ok because we are willing to work through it with them each step of the way," Dietrich explained.

And that bigger picture is the exact reason Milhaus was founded.  

The goal of transforming neighborhoods and lives.

Milhaus was founded on this very idea and now, we are on the pursuit of making more ‘HITEs’ and ‘Marcatos’ of the world. Helping people live places they may not have been able to before. Helping a neighborhood grow through the creation of more desirable local retail. And better living locations with proximity to a resident’s work, shopping, dining, and entertainment. That’s what it’s about and no transformation can happen through just coming into a neighborhood, throwing up a building, and assuming we know everything. But rather, strategically investing in places that we believe in and working with the people that call it home.

Vogelsmeier said it best, “At the end of the day, we really aren’t just building places for people to live. We take it beyond that which is really special.”