Case Studies

Freeman Development Corporation

Multifamily development, design and construction in the Midwest

Rick Freeman has been a business owner since 1976, when he founded Freeman Planning & Design Inc. as a consulting firm. After establishing his expertise for several decades, he made the jump into construction in 1990, founding Freeman Construction Corporation. A year later, he decided to fully integrate his group of businesses with the addition of Freeman Development Corporation. Now the family-owned and -operated business is a vertically integrated real estate firm performing development, design, architecture, landscape architecture, construction and management of multifamily housing projects throughout Indiana and Illinois.

With its headquarters in Richmond, Indiana, Freeman Development and its sister companies operate throughout the Midwest. The business has developed 19 properties totaling more than 1800 units and currently owns and manages 12 properties totaling more than 1,300 units.  Projects are developed, designed, constructed and managed by the group and the company continues to seek out new markets.

Rick is now semi-retired from the business but is still actively involved in financing and development. Penny Freeman, Rick’s wife, is retired but when she was active in the business she provided interior design services.  Brad Freeman also assists with obtaining financing and in the overall management of the business and serves as asset manager for half of the Freeman portfolio. Julie Freeman-Burch is the asset manager for the other half of the portfolio and is involved in accounting and compliance. Sarah Roan-Smith most recently managed the lease-up of Monarch Crossing in Columbus and is involved with accounting and property management in Columbus and Jeffersonville, Indiana. Michael Roan is involved in new design, development and construction. Michael was instrumental in reconfiguring the site layout in Columbus in order to maximize the density on the available land. He also oversees construction and is actively seeking new development projects.

“We have locations in Cambridge City, Columbus, and Jeffersonville, Indiana,” says Brad. “In Illinois, we have properties in Macomb, Bloomington and Galesburg.  Our furthest property is about six hours from our headquarters. I visit a few times a year and make the rounds through central Illinois.”

Freeman Development CorporationVertical integration

All three companies work together to build a development from start to finish. “As the development end of the group, Freeman Development finds the piece of ground and we purchase it,” says Brad. “Freeman Planning & Design provides the architectural, landscape architectural and design services. Then Freeman Construction builds it. After construction, the property comes back to the Freeman Development in the end for management as we manage all of our properties. We do it all, from scouting to plans and permits to financing, building and managing.”

Freeman Development focuses exclusively on multifamily projects. The firm recently added 90 new units to an existing complex, Monarch Crossing, in Columbus, Indiana. “It’s a long story,” Brad explains. “This is a site we have had for a long time and the original sellers of the land kept a house that was in the middle of the land we bought. The owner held out for a long time and finally sold two years ago. We took the house down, built more apartments, bought the land across the street and built there too. With the 90 new units we now have 232 total units on the property.”

The new constriction in Columbus features the first three-story residential buildings in company history. The first development on the site occurred in 1994 with 68 units and those units were entirely renovated in 2010 to blend with the new construction that the company built on the adjoining land beginning in 2006.

“The original site was laid out sparsely with a lot of green space,” he adds. “The demand in Columbus is great and we had space to build more units. We built 11 doubles-type units which was also a new design for us. Each building features two units and because the footprint is smaller, we were able to insert them into the spaces between buildings. We also redesigned the main driveway to maximize the number of units we could add. All these different architectural styles flow nicely and we have four different building types. As a result there is more of a visual effect than with a typical apartment complex where all the buildings look the same.”

Keeping up with the market

Over the coming years, Brad says the Columbus market looks promising. “I think the rental growth has been strong,” he says. “The market is different in Columbus because Cummins is a major employer there. They are bringing in a lot of people from overseas and they are renters. In other markets, we are seeing increasing occupancy and decreased vacancy, which is a strong trend.”

While the team is not looking to expand too far outside of its current geographic footprint, Brad says there may be a big move coming in the next year or so. “We’re looking in the Indianapolis area right now,” he says. “The deal we are looking at will be good for us and we are excited. Right now we are going through the early stages of the development process.”

Freeman Development is also staying ahead with construction trends, helping to make apartments feel more like private homes to residents. “In our newest apartments in Columbus, we have gone with a laminate floor that looks like wood planks,” says Brad. “We’ve done a clean floor – with carpet only in the bedrooms. We’ve added faux granite countertops in an island kitchen, which we’ve never done before, and all stainless steel appliances. We’ve also upgraded the finishes on light fixtures and faucets and added crown molding. These higher-end touches are things that in the past you would find only in a home, but people want those types of things in apartments now.”

All in all, Brad says his greatest sense of pride comes from building something that has value and serves as a place that people call home. Freeman Development Corporation continues to build quality, comfortable apartment homes throughout the Midwest.

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