Case Studies

Commonwealth Construction Corporation

Prioritizing Value and Satisfaction

One of the more stable markets to be in during recent turbulent economic times is the construction of low-income tax credit housing. The reality of federal money is that it comes with some hoops to jump through, but it can be fairly lucrative for a company that understands the process.  Commonwealth Construction Corporation (Commonwealth) – which operates out of Fond du Lac, Wis. – excels at cutting through the red tape and turning low-income housing proposals into a reality, which has made the company one of Wisconsin’s preeminent cost-efficient developers.

“We are a full-service general contractor and 90 percent of our business is in low-income tax credit housing. We have about $50 million in projects under construction right now,” says Brent J. Schumacher, senior vice president of Commonwealth.

Owner Louie A. Lange III founded Commonwealth in 2001, and over the years the company – which started in Lange’s home – has added landscaping, development and property management divisions in order to create positions for talented employees. “If I run across an outstanding individual who can add value to Commonwealth, I find a way to make space for them,” Lange has commented.

Commonwealth holds budgeting, safety/risk management, value engineering, program management and documenting, excavation, landscaping, concrete and carpentry in-house, augmented by associated quality control and training services. The company employs roughly 60 personnel throughout its current divisions, and Schumacher reports that Commonwealth, which operates throughout the entire state of Wisconsin, has seen consistent revenues in recent years.

Developer of the Year

Able and willing to undertake any project, from a small remodel to large-scale new facility construction, Commonwealth was named the “Developer of the Year” in 2008 by Wisconsin Builder Magazine for its successful track record developing on-time and on-budget affordable housing in Wisconsin and for its contributions to the towns and neighborhoods that have made the firm a success.

Discussing this accolade, Lange is quoted as follows: “We always strive to be a positive influence in the neighborhoods and communities that we are privileged to serve. Being recognized by our peers for our work as a developer and as a member of the community is always an added bonus. I sincerely appreciate the award and wish to thank all who have helped us reach this point.”

Being acknowledged by industry peers is not unusual for Commonwealth. Schumacher reveals that the company – which has worked for local school districts, retail developers, housing authorities and more – has been involved in several high-profile projects that have garnered the firm a lot of positive press. He explains, “We recently completed the renovation of an old maternity ward in Milwaukee. It was a historic building, about 80,000 square feet, that we added an addition to it and converted it into senior housing.”

The company was also involved the adaptive reuse and renovation of the historic West Elementary Apartments. Commonwealth’s team of professionals, in partnership with the Rhinelander Housing Authority, converted the former West Elementary School in Rhinelander, Wis., into 24 apartments for seniors. The new facility also includes a media and computer center, a private library, an exercise room, a salon and a community room.

Rave Reviews from Housing Authority

Nancy McKenzie, the executive director of the Rhinelander Housing Authority, has worked with Commonwealth on a number of projects and was extremely pleased with her organization’s recent project. “Commonwealth Construction Corporation’s team assigned to our Evergreen Manor project has been extremely professional and courteous to the residents still living in the facility and the staff of the Rhinelander Housing Authority,”

McKenzie is quoted as saying. “Commonwealth has often exceeded our expectations during the current construction project as well as during the renovation of a 1923 school. Both projects have turned out to be beautiful and successful for our community in Rhinelander, Wis.” The project in Rhinelander is but one example of Commonwealth’s strengths. Commonwealth, which typically sees an approval rating of about 75 percent of the projects it proposes to the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA), was approved for a record number of awards in 2011. “We received four new WHEDA tax credit awards this year, the most for any company in the state,” Lange is quoted as saying. “Competition for credits has never been greater, and it is the team we presented to WHEDA, and what we have accomplished in the past, that has allowed us to receive more than any other company in Wisconsin this year.”

Commonwealth plans to break ground soon on all four of the projects. The Trinity Artist Lofts and Townhomes of Fond du Lac, a 35-unit apartment complex located on two sites, is the first project to break ground, with construction commenced in October 2011. The Western Townhomes in Neenah, Wis., will commence in January 2012, and will eventually be a 68-unit townhouse development.  The Indianhead Cottages in Mosinee, Wis., will be a 24-unit cottage-style development and will begin construction in April 2012 along with Pleasantview Townhomes of Plymouth, Wis., another 24-unit townhome apartment development.

Government dollars can help a company during tough economic times, but executives must know how to cut through the paperwork to make it a success. Louie A. Lange III, Brent J. Schumacher, Marissa B. Downs and all the other experienced executives and site managers at Commonwealth Construction Corporation have mastered the process of both project and construction management, and are transforming the lives of hundreds of their fellow Wisconsinites one project at a time.

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