Rehabs start for apartment properties transitioning from public housing

The Stovall Place apartments in Swansboro, one of five properties where renovations are underway. (Jonathan Spiers photos)

Part of an effort to convert public housing units in Richmond to private ownership is beginning to be realized with the start of five apartment property rehabs scattered across the city.

Work started in May and June on renovations to five of 11 subsidized housing properties that the Richmond Redevelopment & Housing Authority is transferring to The Michaels Organization, a New Jersey-based firm that was awarded a contract in 2019 to rehab and take over ownership of the buildings.

The five rehabs underway are the 64-unit Fulton Apartments at 1221 Denny St., the 52-unit Randolph Apartments at 300 S. Randolph St., the 40-unit Afton Avenue Apartments at 2201 Afton Ave., the 30-unit Stovall Place at 100 W. 24th St., and the 18-unit Bainbridge Apartments at 28th, Moody and Bainbridge streets.

Curtis Adams, a vice president with Michaels Development in Washington, D.C., said the company closed in May and June on 99-year land leases for the five properties, paying $13.1 million for Fulton, Afton and Bainbridge, and $9.7 million for Stovall and Randolph. Michaels will own and manage the buildings under those leases, while the RRHA will retain ownership of the land, Adams said.

“It’s great to finally get underway and to provide the quality housing that the residents deserve,” he said.

The remaining six properties, which provide housing specifically for seniors, are to begin rehabs next year once financing is lined up through Virginia Housing, formerly the Virginia Housing & Development Authority (VHDA).

Those properties include the 105-unit Fourth Avenue Apartments at 1611 Fourth Ave., the 75-unit Lombardy Apartments at 700 S. Lombardy St., the 70-unit Stonewall Apartments at 1920 Stonewall Ave., the 50-unit Fox Manor Apartments at 18-A W. 27th St., the 25-unit Old Brook Apartments at 3900 Old Brook Circle, and the 24-unit Decatur Apartments at 1200 Decatur St.

Adams said tax credit loan applications were submitted to Virginia Housing for the six senior properties last month.

“We’re going through the due diligence process with VHDA, so a closing date and construction commencement date have not been set yet,” Adams said. “It’s looking more like the early part of next year.”

Totaling 553 apartments across town, the renovations are part of an effort by the RRHA to transition those units from public housing to private landlords, which then would use a project-based voucher program to rent units to Section 8 residents.

Michaels, which has a track record primarily in student housing, was selected over nine other firms that responded to a request for proposals.

Signs indicate work is underway on renovations at the Bainbridge Apartments in Swansboro.

The five rehabs underway, involving 204 apartments, are projected to cost $59 million combined, acquisition costs included. The units will be modernized and buildings upgraded with central air conditioning, dishwashers and washer and dryer units.

As the units are rehabbed, they will be converted from public housing to a voucher program, in which rental income is transferred to a voucher for those receiving Section 8 benefits that stays with a particular property.

Any residents relocated to accommodate the rehabs will be allowed to return to their units once construction is completed, the RRHA has said.

Richmond-based Breeden Construction is the contractor on the rehabs, Moseley Architects is the designer and Timmons Group is the civil engineer. Adams said Michaels Construction, a general contracting affiliate, is lined up to be the contractor on the senior property rehabs.

Financing for the five rehabs underway involved a mix of $18.1 million in private equity raised through the sale of federal 4 percent low-income housing tax credits, and $28.2 million in construction period tax exempt bonds, according to a release. Red Stone Equity Partners invested in the tax credits.

Breeden Construction, a subsidiary of Virginia Beach-based The Breeden Co., was approached by Michaels for the first five rehabs because of other work it has done with the RRHA, Breeden President Brian Revere said last week. He said conversations started in April 2019, around the time that Michaels was awarded its contract.

Revere said the five rehabs will follow a 16-month project schedule, with renovations wrapping up in the third quarter of 2022.

All of the apartments in this round were built between 1971 and 1984 and have not received significant renovations since, Michaels said in a release. Revere lauded the effort to transition the properties and said his company is looking to pick up more of the work to come.

“We really think this is a great initiative by RRHA, much needed, and these five properties are really the starting point,” Revere said. “We’re hoping to continue to be a part of the redevelopment of some of these RRHA properties. It’s a great thing for Richmond and the neighborhoods, and we’re proud to help transform neighborhoods like this and really bring them back to what they used to be.”

The conversions are being done through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rental Assistance Demonstration program. The RRHA is using the same program, called RAD for short, for its three-project effort to provide replacement housing for residents of its Frederick A. Fay Towers, near Gilpin Court.

Those projects include The Rosa apartments, part of a $30 million mixed-income, mixed-use development in Jackson Ward that was formerly known as Jackson Place. All residents of The Rosa’s 72 units were relocated from the aging Fay Towers, the fate of which has yet to be determined.

The other two projects – likewise collaborations between the RRHA and Maryland-based Enterprise Community Development – are the completed conversion of the old Highland Park Public School into 77 senior apartments, and the nearly finished conversion of the former Baker School building next to Gilpin Court into 50 senior apartments.

Note: This story has been updated to clarify that the $59 million development cost for the five rehabs includes the acquisition costs.

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Bruce Anderson
Bruce Anderson
1 month ago

$59 million to rehab 204 units is $289,215 / unit. I have no idea what size they are, but If they average 1,200 square feet per unit, that’s $241/square foot for rehab. You can build new multi-family to Passive House standards in NYC for less than that.

Ashley Smith
Ashley Smith
1 month ago
Reply to  Bruce Anderson

They’ll be compensated handsomly through government funds, and tax credits.