A Garfield Heights-based development company wants to construct an apartment building for low-income seniors on one-half of the site formerly occupied by the Spitzer Lakewood Chrysler Plymouth Jeep dealership.
The RFP, which was published April 4, challenged applicants to create a financially viable concept for redevelopment that produced a long-term benefit to the community, complimented and respected adjacent land uses, and was visually appropriate.
In addition, the RFP suggested three ideas that would fit the bill: commercial space of 3,000 square feet or greater, single-level attached residential housing targeting the 55-year-old and above demographic segment, and senior or assisted living facilities.
To help facilitate a deal and connect the two sites, the city offered to surrender the right-of-way along the northernmost 200 feet of Parkwood Rd in exchange for the creation of a route permitting at least one-way traffic from that street onto Bunts Rd.
In its RFP response, NRP Group billed itself as “one of the largest and most successful developers of affordable housing in country” with four recent “urban infill” developments in Ohio, including Cornerstone Apartments, a three-story 64-unit senior community located on Cleveland’s East Side, near the East Cleveland border. The property is fully leased and has a 300-name waiting list, according to NRP Group’s marketing material.
Welcome to Parkwood Pointe
Parkwood Pointe, NRP Group’s vision for Lakewood, is a smaller version of Cornerstone Apartments. Aimed at low-income people 55-and-older, the three-floor apartment building would have 40 rental units. Each 862-square-foot apartment would feature two bedrooms and a single bathroom. 10% of the units would be handicap accessible.
The elevator-equipped $7.8 million development would have 3,000 square feet of interior common space, featuring a 780-square-foot community center/multi-purpose room with a flat screen TV and fireplace where seniors can “enjoy fellowship” and other activities. It would also include a small hair dressing studio and laundry room.
The financial linchpin of the proposal is the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), an incentive created in the 1986 to increase the supply of quality affordable rental housing.
In short, it works like this: a developer builds affordable rental housing and earns 10 years worth of federal tax credits. In order to help finance the project with up-front cash, the developer sells the rights to the tax credits to someone who has a big federal tax burden – like a large corporation.
In order for a developer to qualify for this benefit, a number of guidelines must be followed. For instance, a certain number of units must be specifically set-aside for low-income renters.
In this case, NRP Group has designated all forty units for low-income residents. 20 units are set-aside for households with incomes of no more than 50% of the Area Median Household Income (AMHI). 16 units are for households with incomes of no more than 60% of the AMHI. 4 units are for households with incomes of no more than 35% of the AMHI.
To get a better idea of the economic scale, a two-person household with an income of 50% of the AMHI would earn no more than a total of $25,920 annually.
To be eligible for the tax credit, rent levels must be restricted by income group. Parkwood Pointe’s rent rates would range between $510 and $700, and include all utilities except telephone and cable. In addition, the development must provide minimum affordability for its tenants for at least 30 years.
According to research performed by NRP Group, the Lakewood-area has an unmet need for this type of house. It examined low-income senior housing offered at Kirby Manor on Detroit Ave. and Clifton Plaza on Clifton Blvd, both in Cleveland, and found occupancy rates to be very high. It projects Parkwood Pointe could achieve 96% occupancy within six months of opening.
If Spitzer Management agrees to sell the property (for $300,000, according to the RFP) and the project is approved by the city – it would require a zoning adjustment – it could open in early 2014.
One significant snag could be availability of the LIHTC. The Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) parcels out the tax credits on an annual basis using a competitive evaluation process.
In the most recent funding cycle, it awarded almost $24 million in tax credits to 33 housing development projects throughout the state. 76 other applicants were turned down and received nothing, including St. Clement Church.
St. Clement senior housing project stalls without tax credits
Catholic Charities Housing Corporation (CCHC) learned in March that it would not receive any funding from the state for its project to adapt and reuse the vacant elementary school at St. Clement as an apartment for low-income seniors age 55 and older.
Maryellen Staab, the deputy director of CCHC, said the project cannot move forward without tax credit financing. “It’s not going anywhere,” Staab said. “We do plan to reapply.”
Stabb said she’s had conversations with city officials about the redevelopment concept and they were supportive.
The application on file with the state shows the project shared some similarities with what NRP Group is proposing for the Spitzer property.
The $6.6 million project at 14401 Madison Ave. would have 39 units, including 17 one-bedroom apartments and 22 two-bedroom apartments. Each with a bathroom, the rooms would be somewhat smaller than the rooms at the NRP Group development at around 650-square-feet per single bedroom unit and about 850-square-feet per double bedroom unit.
Rent would include utilities and be $605 for a single bedroom and $689 for a double bedroom. Four single room units designated for tenants with an income at 35% of the AMHI would be $425. All other rooms would be reserved for tenants with an income of at least 50% of the AMHI.
The development would include a large community room, as well as a warming kitchen, laundry room, elevator and other gathering spaces.
To support the new use, a three-story addition would be added to the structure. Two small out-buildings, an addition and a convent would all be demolished.
Wallick-Hendy Properties would provide on-site property management and CCHC would be the 100% general partner and developer of the project.
If the state had provided funding, the development was expected to have been operational by early 2013.