Thursday, July 2, 2009

Fay developer gets funding for $32M rehabilitation

The passage of two ordinances by Cincinnati City Council means that Wallick-Hendy Development will get additional funding for the $32 million rehabilitation of the troubled Fay Apartments.

One ordinance extends a $3.2 million amortizing federal HOME loan to Fay Limited Partnership, at 2 percent interest and payable over 40 years, with a maximum annual payment of nearly $117,000; The second ordinance extends a 12-year Community Reinvestment Area LEED tax exemption agreement to the developer worth 75 percent of the increased tax value of the property, or about $5.1 million over the life of the agreement.

Councilmembers Jeff Berding, Chris Bortz, and Chris Monzel voted against both ordinances.

The developer plans to demolish 17 outdated buildings and reduce the number of units by 20 percent, from 893 to 703.
Many of the two-bedroom units will be converted into more marketable three-bedroom apartments.

They also plan increased services and amenities – including an on-site daycare – and a close working relationship with Roll Hill Elementary School, in which Fay children represent 85 percent of enrollment.

Wallick-Hendy also has registered the project with the U.S. Green Building Council as a LEED NC 2.2 development, and says that the project will be the largest green and LEED project in the multi-family sector in Midwest, and possibly the country.

In terrible shape

Built in 1962, the complex once housed 1,025 market-rate units; today, only 115 market-rate apartments are left out of the remaining 893 units.

Wallick-Hendy has been working on plans to rehabilitate the apartments since 2005.

Joe Morgan, NSP manager with the East Westwood Community Council, was one of half a dozen community representatives to send council a letter of support, saying that Fay was in terrible shape.

"There is inadequate insulation in these apartments, no central air conditioning at all and very old appliances which needs to be replaced," he said. "Please do your best to see that these residents of our city gets the apartments that will allow them to be warm in the winter, cool in the summer and a place that they will be proud to call their home."

Fay Community Council endorsed the rehabilitation plan at its meeting on July 28, 2008, and Cincinnati-Hamilton County Community Action Agency also sent a letter of support.

'Phase out the killing fields'

Strong opposition to the funding came from the community of Westwood – specifically the Westwood Civic Association (WCA), which voted against the use of City tax dollars for the project at its June 9 meeting.

"The west side has suffered long enough from the crime and blight caused by this publicly funded housing project," said WCA president John Sess. "If the owner wishes to pursue rehabbing the complex using his own money, then we have no objection."

In a separate letter, WCA vice president Jim McNulty asked council to "phase out the killing fields".

"If you don't care about the victims who have to live there, think about how much of the city's precious budget is spent there for police, fire, and other services," he said.

McNulty said that incentives like the LEED tax exemption won't protect the complex's children from the mayhem and will only serve to enrich the developers.

"It's time to declare the Fay a failed social experiment," he said. "To give those slumlords more of our tax money in their pockets adds insult to injury to every legitimate taxpayer in the area."

But the Faith Community Alliance of Greater Cincinnati (FCA) believes that safety concerns will be addressed by the reduction in the number of units, new gates, and increased security.

Wallick-Hendy has said that it will dedicate $800,000 to $1 million of its budget to enhanced security.

"Most of the crime and other problems experienced at Fay are the result of outsiders who come in unimpeded," said the FCA. "Security will be further enhanced with the installation of more security cameras and the hiring of more off-duty Cincinnati police officers."

Worries about displacement

Lois Broerman, executive director of the North Fairmount Community Center, agreed with the plans, adding that increasing the size of the units and bolstering the screening process would help.

And she advised the Westwood Civic Association to "butt out" and to focus on its job of improving Westwood.

"If you think what happened to Westwood and Price Hill was bad when English Woods was demolished, I can't imagine the negative impact on Westwood and Price Hill and beyond if the Fay were to be destroyed," Broerman said.

Tenants United for Truth, an affordable housing advocacy group, supported the project, saying that Fay's closure would lead to dire consequences for the approximately 3,000 residents.

They also worried that displaced tenants receiving Section 8 vouchers might have trouble finding adequate housing.

"Fay and other affordable housing complexes in the city allow for those with limited incomes to afford monthly rent," Tenants United for Truth said. "Access to such affordable housing prevents homelessness and promotes family stability."

In its letter, FCA voiced its worry that the City would be unable to absorb so many voucher recipients within such a short period of time.

"FCA would like to remind the city that when major relocation projects affecting the poor were completed in the past, little consideration was given as to where these families would live and reside," FCA said. "The results were often the upsetting of neighborhoods and hostility to the poor. Here, the City has an opportunity to avoid another one of these situations."

Rev. Gregory Chandler Sr. of the AMOS Project agreed, adding that the rehabilitation would have even broader benefits for the community.

"As you know, AMOS believes that development projects dependent on public financing should be required to benefit the broader community by hiring local residents, especially African-Americans, and by including minority-owned firms in the work," he said.

Work to start soon

Renovation work is now on schedule to begin soon, with demolition of the buildings likely to occur near the end of the project to avoid as many displacements as possible.

The project is scheduled for completion in July 2012.

Other funds for the project will come from a $28 million HUD loan and $1.5 million in developer equity.

The Wallick Companies and Stern-Hendy Properties merged in late 2008. Stern-Hendy acquired Fay Apartments from the City of Cincinnati in 1986.

Previous reading on BC:
Future of Fay Apartments in doubt (4/30/08)