2014 HTC Development that Best Overcame Significant Obstacles

Winner

Williamsburgh Savings Bank

Developer: Dome Voyagers LLC
Owner: Driggs Broadway LLC
Location: Brooklyn, N.Y.

Williamsburgh Savings Bank
Photo: Courtesy of Durston Saylor.
Dome Voyagers LLC transformed the historic Williamsburgh Savings Bank building into a cultural event and exhibition venue in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The 2014 Historic Development that Overcame Significant Obstacles Award is presented to Dome Voyagers LLC for transforming the historic Williamsburgh Savings Bank building into a cultural event and exhibition venue in Brooklyn, N.Y. The building, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, operated as a bank for nearly 135 years. Over time, the structure fell into disrepair until it was purchased by Driggs Broadway LLC in 2010.

During the rehabilitation of the Williamsburgh Savings Bank building, Dome Voyagers overcame several construction and financing obstacles. Because Dome Voyagers had to preserve the exterior and interior of the former bank building’s original structure and update the existing systems, construction was difficult and costly. Dome Voyagers thoroughly researched all documentary and physical evidence to determine the original finishes, materials and hues of the building. Creating decorative ceiling murals using custom digital wallpaper, recreating damaged exterior features, consolidating original fabric and restoring the limestone masonry were just some of the tasks Dome Voyagers undertook to preserve the site’s original structure. The building also had to be updated to modern codes so it could be used as an event venue. To accomplish this, Dome Voyagers integrated new systems and updated existing systems to meet the venue’s functional needs and to fix numerous problems caused by years of deferred maintenance.

Financing the project was difficult because its rehabilitation and future use entailed costly preservation work. But Dome Voyagers collaborated with several investors to finance the building’s preservation, which cost $23.9 million. The financing package included equity from several U.S. corporations, a bridge loan from Emerald Creek Capital, $3.8 million in federal historic tax credits (HTCs) and $2.5 million in state HTCs. Dome Voyagers also worked with several talented preservationists who lowered the cost of their services for the opportunity of preserving the property.

The Williamsburgh Savings Bank was also recognized with the 2014 Excellence in Historic Preservation Award, presented by the Preservation League of New York State (PLNYS).

"Very hard to finance and restore to this use - operations are a long term challenge ahead." – Steven Stogel, DFC Group

Honorable Mention

The Corona

Developer: Gulf Coast Housing Partnership and Mid City Redevelopment Alliance Inc.
Owner: Albany Housing Authority
Location: Baton Rouge, La.

The Corona
The honorable mention for the 2014 Historic Development that Overcame Significant Obstacles Award is presented to Gulf Coast Housing Partnership (GCHP) and Mid City Redevelopment Alliance Inc. for rehabilitating the historic Corona-Olinde building into affordable rental housing. The Corona, placed in service in December 2013, is a 37-unit affordable housing development in Baton Rouge, La. Originally built in 1925, the historic Corona-Olinde building is a 33,000-square-foot structure most recently used as a furniture store and warehouse before its transformation into apartments.

The development team employed several creative solutions to secure a National Register designation for the building. Because a previous owner covered the entire building’s exterior with concrete panels during the 1970s, the process of obtaining Part 1 historic approval was challenging. GHCP submitted three Part 1 applications. Although the second Part 1 application, which argued for the building’s significance as part of the former Italian-American commercial corridor, was approved by the Louisiana State Historic Preservation, it was rejected by the National Park Service. With a low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) placed-in-service deadline looming, GHCP decided to close on the development project with a substantial owner loan in lieu of federal historic tax credits (HTCs), while pursuing approval for a third application. Through collaboration with a preservation consultant, GHCP argued that the Corona-Olinde store that had once occupied the site exemplified the growth of Baton Rouge into a metropolitan area following World War II. This assertion was ultimately accepted by the National Park Service in July 2013.

Through the perseverance of GHCP, the development team was able to meet the LIHTC placed-in-service deadline and eventually secure nearly $1 million in federal HTCs, which canceled the owner loan originally made. The Corona was also financed by $5.3 million in LIHTCs and $1.1 million in state HTCs.

"I chose the Corona simply because of the challenge to achieve Part 1 historic designation and the perseverance and creative approach taken by the project team to obtain historic approval." – Melissa Ferchill, MCM Company Inc.

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