Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Valley Homes redevelopment awaiting approval

The long-troubled Valley Homes complex in Lincoln Heights can be redeveloped if the village's Department of Planning and Zoning approves of a planned unit development plan submitted by Model Property Management (Model Group) on August 25.

Valley Homes, a 29-acre complex consisting of 55 buildings, was built as temporary housing in the 1941 for workers at the Wright Aeronautical Plant, now the GE Aircraft Engines plant in Evendale.

The heavily blighted complex, currently housing around 122 residents – mostly senior citizens, has been a resident-owned cooperative since 1954.

In 2005, the property fell into receivership, with the utilities turned off, garbage not collected, taxes unpaid, and maintenance deferred.

The complex nearly closed in 2006, but a court appointed Maureen Wood of Northside-based Urban Village Developers, LLC as receiver.

"A more permanent solution has to be found," Wood says. "Without a solution, quite a few people are going to be in a very difficult situation."

Task force appointed

In January 2007, Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas judge Dennis Helmick appointed a task force, the Board of Valley Homes Mutual Housing Corporation (VHMHC).

Because of the many problems with the buildings, it became clear to the VHMHC that repairs would be far too costly.

A lack of funding was available for rehabilitation, and the buildings suffer from mold, asbestos, deteriorated water and sewer lines, and a lack of ADA compliance.

Courtyards in between became hotbeds of crime.

In May 2007, VHMHC sent out a request for proposals for the redevelopment, and, in January 2008, the Model Group emerged from the nine applicants as the only bidder with the capacity to complete the project.

VHMHC still owes over $200,000 to Duke Energy and the Greater Cincinnati Water Works, and the utilities on remain on only because the property is in receivership.

Redevelopment plan

Phase I of what will be called Villas of the Valley will include up to 69 senior cottages north of Medosch Street, to be made available to tenants over age 55 and under 60 percent of the area median income.

"It has in it what we wanted, which is senior homes," says Joyce Thacker, treasurer for the VHMHC board. "It's the first thing we wanted to do, taking care of the seniors. Then once we got the seniors taken care of, we wanted to take care of the rest of the population."

Each unit will have between one and two bedrooms and average around 1,000 square feet, with 20 percent of the units being ADA-compliant.

Current eligible residents of Valley Homes will be given first priority in the new cottages.

Rents for the new cottages will be between $508 and $548 per month, which includes utilities.

VHMHC will continue to own the Phase I land, but will sign a 35-year ground lease, at $1 per year, with Model Group subsidiary Villas of the Valley Limited Partnership for the two parcels of land north of Medosch Street.

The developer will own and manage the buildings during the 15-year Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) tax credit compliance period, after which VHMHC will have the opportunity to purchase them.

If VHMHC declines to buy the buildings, ownership will revert to them following the 35-year lease period.

The financing package includes not only OHFA tax credits, but also federal HOME funds, Enterprise Foundation Green Funds, Hamilton County NSP funds, and bank loans.

"It's amazing they were able to secure financing in a difficult time," Wood says. "No one else has come up with anything to date as an alternative."

But to make the Phase I financing package complete, the rezoning needs to be approved within the next two months to attract Tax Credit Assistance Program funding from the American Reinvestment & Recovery Act of 2009.

If the rezoning is approved, ground for Phase I could be broken in October and the units could be ready for occupancy by the end of 2010.

There are currently 11 vacant buildings north of Medosch Street.

Future phases

Phase II will consist of 35 units and be available to people of all ages, as long as they meet the same income requirements.

Demolition for the second phase could begin in spring or summer of 2010, with completion in spring 2011.

A third phase is still under consideration.

Valley Homes photos courtesy of Joe Wessels, CinDaily.com