Todd Wood sold his commercial-baking business for $120 million and weighed plans to get into real estate — then decided that most existing business models were the equivalent of residential white bread.

Eventually, he hit on an appealing recipe. Instead of building homes for suburban buyers or apartment renters, he would develop communities with elements of both: detached rental homes with small footprints and high-end amenities, aimed at downsizing baby boomers and student-debt laden millennials.

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