Ohio City, Kinsman affordable-housing projects among a dozen Northeast Ohio tax-credit winners

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Ohio City, Kinsman affordable-housing projects among a dozen Northeast Ohio tax-credit winners

July 27, 2017 [Michelle Jarboe, The Plain Dealer]

The Snavely Group plans to redevelop the Forest City Bank Building and a neighboring building on Detroit Avenue as affordable apartments, as part of a larger project spanning both sides of the high-profile West 25th Street intersection. CLEVELAND, Ohio – A dozen Northeast Ohio affordable-housing projects won coveted tax credits this month, during an annual round of awards to support renovation, construction and purchases of homes for low-income residents. 

In Cleveland, developers will use the credits to: 

  • Turn empty upper floors of two historic Ohio City buildings into apartments. 
  • Build houses in the Kinsman neighborhood on the East Side. 
  • Build houses in the International Village on the West Side. 
  • Replace the blighted former Brooklyn YMCA on West 25th Street with apartments to house the chronically homeless. 

The other winning projects (listed below), including three in Akron, stretch from Elyria to Ravenna Township. The Ohio Housing Finance Agency‘s board announced more than $27 million in awards – federal housing tax credits that trickle down to developers through the state – for 33 projects on July 19. More than 80 applicants requested more than $67 million in credits this year. Developers claim the tax credits over a 10-year period to offset the costs of building or rehabbing homes. In return, the developers must rent those apartments or houses to low- to middle-income residents, at affordable rents calculated based on local household incomes. In Ohio City, the Snavely Group finally won credits for a $10.8 million apartment project, on the third try. The developer, with an assist from the nonprofit Detroit Shoreway Community Development Organization, plans to remake the Forest City Bank Building and the neighboring Seymour Block as 38 dwellings, with a maximum monthly rent of $785. The buildings are part of a larger development that includes ground-up construction of much pricier apartments across the street; a West Side outpost of the Music Settlement school; a co-working space; and other new businesses at two corners of West 25th and Detroit Avenue. The affordable housing could open in early 2019, said Pete Snavely, Jr., the Chagrin Falls-based company’s vice president of development. “We think that this is a model for how mixed-use, mixed-income projects can be done nationally,” he said, “and we’re going to continue to do work like this.” The redevelopment also includes federal and state tax credits for historic preservation. And Snavely expects to qualify for tax incentives tied to renewable energy, since the renovated buildings will draw much of their power from solar panels on the roof, the sub-roof and the top of a carport that will shade a parking lot to the south. Three miles south on West 25th, the empty Brooklyn YMCA complex at 3881 Pearl Road could be demolished in the middle of next year. Cleveland Housing Network plans to develop a 71-unit apartment building that will provide permanent supportive housing – a place for people who have been homeless for a year or more to find stable shelter. Tenants might start out rent-free, but they ultimately pay rent equal to 30 percent of their income. 

The project is part of an initiative to combat chronic homelessness in Cuyahoga County. Cleveland Housing Network and Emerald Development and Economic Network, Inc., a nonprofit agency commonly called EDEN, have opened 10 such facilities in Cuyahoga County as part of a broader push to combat homelessness. The Brooklyn building, which would open in late 2019, could be the last, said Rob Curry, executive director of Cleveland Housing Network. “We’re getting closer and closer to a functional zero rate of chronic homelessness – the most at-risk subset of homelessness,” he said. The Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp. – the county land bank – took possession of the old YMCA in August 2015, in a deal arranged to avoid a foreclosure. Ultimately, EDEN will own and operate the apartment building, and FrontLine Service will provide on-site support. Cleveland Housing Network also is the developer behind the plan for new single-family homes in the International Village, an area within roughly half a mile of an English-immersion public school called Thomas Jefferson International Newcomers Academy on West 46th Street. Public officials, nonprofits and neighborhood-development groups are trying to attack vacancy and blight by pitching new and renovated homes to immigrants, refugees and migrants. “This is part of our strategy to build on the 300 vacant lots in the neighborhood that are really there because of the foreclosure crisis,” International Village Director Tony Bango said. Twenty-two new homes will rise between mid-2018 and late 2019 on empty property that Cleveland Housing Network already controls or plans to acquire. The houses will be part of a lease-purchase program that the developer has used across the city. A similar project is under construction in Slavic Village, also aided by housing tax credits. The one- to three-bedroom houses will be rentals for 15 years, with anticipated rents of $640 a month. After that, the low-income renters can become homeowners. Cleveland Housing Network currently sells such houses for $25,750, Curry said. “There’s a vision there,” he said of the International Village, “and that vision makes sense to us.” A similar, scattered-site housing project could kick off next year on the East Side, where neighborhood nonprofit Burten, Bell, Carr Development, Inc., plans to build 36 homes on empty lots along Colfax Road and Minnie Street. Renderings show likely designs for the Colfax Family Homes project in Cleveland’s Kinsman neighborhood. The single-family homes will be restricted to low-income renters. The two- and three-story houses will rent for $740 to $800 a month, according to a project summary posted by the Ohio Housing Finance Agency. As in the International Village, they will eventually be available for purchase, for roughly $30,000. To live in the new homes, the renters must make no more than 60 percent of the area’s median gross income. That’s about $40,000 a year for a family of four. Jeffrey Sugalski, real estate development director for Burten, Bell, Carr, said the project was dreamed up years ago as workforce housing that would position families close to new jobs created by the Opportunity Corridor project. The corridor is a planned boulevard that will run from East 55th Street and Interstate 490 to University Circle, through neighborhoods that were hard-hit by the housing crisis and scarred by vacancy and blight. 

The other tax-credit winners in Northeast Ohio were: 

Knickerbocker Apartments in Bay Village: A $15 million rehabilitation of an existing, eight-story apartment building for low-income, elderly residents. The renovation will cut 21 units from the building, increase the number of one-bedroom apartments and create eight accessible units for people with physical disabilities. 

Cottages at Riverview in Elyria: A senior-housing project that will comprise 62 apartments in 18 buildings within walking distance of downtown, near the Black River. The land previously was a mobile-home park and, before that, part of the old Lorain County Fairgrounds. 

Arlington Square Apartments in Elyria: A $7.7 million renovation of a 1970s apartment building on David Drive for very low- to moderate-income families. 

Ravenna Township Family Housing: A 30-unit, new-construction project on Prospect Street in Ravenna Township, in Portage County. 

Spring Hill Apartments, phase three, in Akron: Renovation of an eight-building, 1970s apartment property occupied by very low-income renters. 

Middlebury Commons in Akron: A new, senior-housing project in Akron, with 40 apartments above retail on East Market Street. 

Arlington Ridge Homes in Green: A new, 46-unit apartment development aimed at low-wage workers and their families in Summit County. The project, on Moore Road, will offer services including financial assistance for adult education, access to public transportation, an on-site health clinic and educational programming for children. 

International House at San Tomasso: A new, 50-unit apartment project intended as refugee housing, through a partnership between the Testa Companies, a developer, and the nonprofit International Institute of Akron. The homes will fill vacant land near Summa Health System’s St. Thomas campus and St. Anthony of Padua Parish.