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Finding new life for old buildings

May 6, 2014

Bob Lemke thought about starting his own business for a long time, but it was an opportunity to teach that convinced him to take the chance.

"I wish I would have done it earlier," said Lemke, who owns Envision Consulting, an architectural consulting firm. Lemke also is co-owner of Wisconsin Redevelopment, a real estate development firm that focuses on affordable housing and historic preservation.

After studying architecture and historical preservation in college, Lemke went to work for U.S. Bank, where he handled real estate development, including, among other things, finding buildings for the bank to remodel and reuse. Lemke also taught part-time at the Milwaukee School of Engineering.

After 15 years with the bank, MSOE asked if Lemke would consider teaching full time. When Lemke accepted, he decided he also would start Envision.

With Envision, like his work at U.S. Bank, Lemke finds sites for building or remodeling, works out financing and advises on demolition and construction for clients such as the Wisconsin Humane Society, which worked with Lemke to develop buildings in Milwaukee and Saukville.

With Wisconsin Redevelopment, Lemke and his partner, Todd Hutchison, work directly with investors to develop projects like the 79-unit Riverwalk Plaza condominiums in Milwaukee's historic Third Ward.

"We adapt, reuse and come up with new uses for old buildings. It's really kind of a fun challenge," Lemke said.

The company also helps fill the affordable housing gap in the metro area, developing rent-to-own projects like the Mitchell Market Lofts and Silver City Townhomes, which used a grant from the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District to install green roofs to collect stormwater run-off.

"If you ever drive by, you'll see sheep on the roof. The sheep are artificial, but it really brands the project," Lemke said.

Sheep aside, Lemke said, he's proud to make a difference for families who might not otherwise find good, affordable homes.

"That's rewarding. We're filling that need and trying to find opportunities to actually create something that maybe nobody else thought of," he said.

To suggest a Wauwatosa business for this spotlight, send an email to news@cninow.com.

JUST THE FACTS

BUSINESS: Envision Consulting Inc. and Wisconsin Redevelopment, 7611 Harwood Ave.

WEB: WisconsinRedevelopment.com

PHONE: (414) 777-0428

OWNER: Bob Lemke (Envision), co-owner Todd Hutchison (Wisconsin Redevelopment)

INCORPORATED: 1999 Envision, 2003 Wisconsin Redevelopment

TYPE OF BUSINESS: architectural consultation and real estate development

PEARLS OF WISDOM: "(Starting a business) was always in the back of my mind. I wish I would have done it earlier."

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