1970 TRANSFORMATION

PROJECT DESCRIPTION

Woodrow Wilson Townhomes was built in 1972 under the New York State Mitchell Lama program and HUD 236 IRF financing programs.  It was one of many such projects built under a New York State Urban Development Corporation initiative that failed to sustain itself and fell into physical and financial distress.

 

While it was financed and built in the 70’s its design reflected a 1950s mid-century affordable housing vocabulary with T-111 siding, flat roofs and centrally metered electric baseboard heat. By 2013 the project was under severe physical and financial distress.

With encouragement from the New York State Housing Finance Agency, Omni Housing Development LLC negotiated a purchase agreement with the long term owner and initialed the redevelopment process.

The goal of redevelopment was to provide a state-of the-art project that will stand as a model of excellence in greening of an existing affordable, Mitchell Lama housing project while recognizing the need to contain costs and minimize the public investment. The project is completed, performing well and have lasting durability through the next 40 years as a permanent affordable housing resource for the community.

The project is located in a residential area of the City of Amsterdam. The area surrounding the site is a mix of market rate, well maintained, residential single family homes. A public bus stop is located at the curb adjacent to the front entrance to the complex. Shopping including a market and pharmacy are within one mile. The elementary school is .4 of a mile and hospitals the high school, banks and the fir company are all about a mile distant. Clearly, this affordable housing facility is strategically located to continue to serve low and very low income families. The demand for such affordable housing will only grow over time.

DESIGN DESCRIPTION

Woodrow Wilson Homes was built in 1972. There are 15 existing buildings that house 100 apartments. The buildings are contemporary style two story wood frame construction, slab on grade with flat roofs. The apartments are townhome style and consist of 24 one bedrooms, 36 two bedrooms, 30 three bedrooms and 10 four bedrooms. There are two types of building designs on the site. Three of the buildings are a long linear design with a flush façade. All of the three and four bedroom apartments are located in these buildings. The remaining 12 buildings are smaller in size with a stepped façade. The one and two bedroom apartments are located in the smaller buildings.

The proposed design is a moderate rehabilitation of the existing apartments and an extensive redesign of the site and exterior of the buildings. The contemporary style of the buildings have remained but have been redesigned with modern finishes, colors and textures. The existing apartment count and type have remained the same. Five of the existing apartments have been redesigned to address handicap accessibility. There are two one bedroom handicap apartments and one of each of the remaining apartment types. In the new design one of the large linear buildings has been divided into two separate buildings. There are 16 buildings at the completion of the rehabilitation.

DESIGN CHALLENGES

Energy cost

  • Driving the project to financial and functional failure.
  • The apartments were heated with centrally metered electric base board resistance heating. The electric costs currently exceed $2,000/dwelling unit/per annum and expected to increase.
  • The development, built in 1972 to 1950 standards, was 3.5” fiberglass batt insulation in the exterior walls that have failed in many areas due to condensation and settlement. The flat roofs had 6” batt insulation that was subjected to 40 years of condensation and settlement.

Failing Site

  • Failed sidewalks and road ways were present more than one hundred tripping hazards.
  • This represents a current liability for the project and a contingent liability for the agencies that finance and regulate the project.

Tenant Safety

  • Compromised by bad design and lack of site and outdoor lighting.
  • The apartment front entrances were hidden by storage sheds that provided a haven for criminal activity, potential muggers and handy hiding places for vandals in flight. The sheds also presented a sterile and unattractive face to the project.

DESIGN STRATEGIES

  • Gutting each building to allow re-insulation of exterior walls.
  • Replaced all of the kitchens and bathrooms to provide the residents with more efficient and modern amenities
  • Replacement of the heating distribution system with a new energy efficient gas fired heating and central cooling system.
  • Window replacement.
  • Replacement and reconfiguration of sidewalks.
  • The apartment entries re-configured to provide more attractive, better lit porches and removed the front storage sheds that were both unsightly and a safety hazards.
  • Site handicap accessibility to apartments, community room, playground and laundry facilities.
  • Provide Wi-Fi Hub to connect all residents to the internet through a wireless connection as well as provide internet cable wiring to all units and the community room.
  • Designed to provide energy reduction of at least 20% over existing usage.

PROJECT TEAM

Developer:  Omni Housing Development LLC

Architect:  RIDA Architecture, PLLC

Builder:  Bette & Cring Construction

Construction Lender:  First Niagara Bank

Perm Lender:  The Community Preservation Corp.

Equity Syndicator:  Raymond James