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A Developer With a Soul

How Cleveland-based NRP Group is building high-quality housing across the income spectrum that benefits entire communities.

Residences at Career Gateway, 58 affordable units targeted to households at or below 60 percent of area median income

When the underserved Southside neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio, needed affordable housing, the NRP Group helped fill the void. The company partnered with Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Community Development for All People, a faith-based nonprofit, to create Residences at Career Gateway, 58 affordable units targeted to households at or below 60 percent of area median income.

The scope of the project went beyond simple walls and roofs. Residences at Career Gateway also includes a 2,400-square-foot career development center for the entire community. The center—run by Community Development for All People, with partners including Columbus City Schools, Dress for Success and Goodwill—focuses on professional development skills as well as life skills. That’s the NRP way: turning houses into homes and neighborhoods into communities, while creating business opportunities and transformative experiences.

“Residences at Career Gateway is a great example of using housing as a positive platform to make progress on other social determinants of health like workforce training,” David Heller, NRP president, CEO and cofounder, says. “When you can combine safe, high-quality housing with workforce development and other supportive services, you can start to build real pathways of opportunity for the residents and communities we serve. It’s part of a concept in healthcare that treats the neighborhood like the patient and strives to make broader positive change.”

David Heller, NRP Group president, CEO and cofounder

David Heller, NRP president, CEO and cofounder

For two and a half decades, NRP has stayed true to the mission that Heller and cofounders Alan Scott and Richard Bailey imagined when they launched the company in Cleveland in 1994. They’ve tried, and succeeded, to be something rare: a vertically integrated, best-in-class developer with a soul. “Our mission is to create exceptional multifamily housing for individuals and families, regardless of income,” Heller says. “We strive to do our small part to help repair the world and leave it a little better than we found it.”

In other words, this is a company that has done well by doing good. In 2004, NRP developed its 10,000th unit. In past years, Affordable Housing Finance magazine has ranked NRP No. 1 on its Top 50 Developers list. Today, NRP boasts 17 offices in 14 states, including Ohio, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Michigan and New York. The NRP Group now has 850 employees and manages over 20,000 units.

NRP wouldn’t be anything without the residents of the properties it develops and manages, and its employees. “A+ people build A+ reputations, and that’s what defines a company,” Heller says. “We are so proud of our people and our reputation.” The secret to success is never losing sight of our core values and continuing to use them as a guiding light at every level in the decision-making process. Do what you say you will, demand high performance, be open to new ideas and embrace diversity. Rinse. Repeat. Develop. Develop. Develop.

Halle exterior

Then there’s NRP’s commitment to its hometown. The company is a key part of the Cleveland renaissance, helping to turn downtown into a vibrant, fast-paced, economic boomtown. In the summer of 2018, NRP demonstrated its intention to stay, relocating its headquarters from Garfield Heights, Ohio, to the Halle Building in downtown. Transferring 130 employees to the 43,000-square-foot space in the Playhouse Square District proved to be the culmination of a two-and-a-half-year search, a project that ended with NRP helping Cleveland take another step in its reinvention story. NRP now has almost 200 people in the Cleveland HQ.

Three miles west of NRP’s headquarters sits The Edison at Gordon Square, another symbol that the company is as committed to its hometown as it is to building high-quality housing. The property, located near Edgewater Park on the shores of Lake Erie, gave a boost to an area desperate for a small push. “It was the first large-scale multifamily community in a neighborhood that had some momentum already and just needed someone to really believe, to be a catalyst to bring everything together,” Heller says. To visit now is to see a neighborhood thriving like never before, with Edison residents helping to provide a lively, vibrant and successful community.

The Edison at Gordon Square, Lake View

NRP’s combination of hustle and heart is gaining the praise of respected officials across the country. At the company’s 25th anniversary celebration in San Antonio, former mayor and former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros said NRP was the premier group bringing high-quality affordable housing to his city and other cities around the U.S., citing its unique ability to partner with both the public and private sectors to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks. “For such a respected figure that knows us so well to say these words—that was a true highlight for me,” Heller says.

As NRP looks to the future, its executives plan to stay the course and expand the offerings. A development with MetroHealth in Cleveland will offer mixed-income housing and workforce training resources, just one more example of how NRP is playing a role to help urban healthcare systems move upstream, “beyond the clinic,” to address social determinants of health and focus on a broader definition of health and wellness in the neighborhoods they serve. “Our experience in this area leads us to believe that we can add real value to accelerating this very exciting national initiative,” Heller says. Health, heart, hope. The NRP mission goes on.