2019 Residential Development that Overcame Significant Obstacles
Big Chair Lofts
Developer: Third Wave Housing/Cohen-Esrey Development Group
Location: Thomasville, N.C.
Big Chair Lofts is the adaptive reuse of an historic wooden furniture mill in Thomasville, N.C. The development offers 139 one- and two-bedroom affordable apartments. Common-area amenities are similar to the market-rate loft complexes, as the property offers a two-story community space, a movie theater, a fitness center and a computer lab. The property also provides after-school care and financial literacy courses.
Despite losing the original tax credit investor due to uncertainty after the 2016 presidential election, developer team Third Wave Housing/Cohen-Esrey Development Group was able to close on the tax-exempt bonds and construction financing. They went back out to market for a new HTC investor, which they closed in August 2018. The property opened in December 2018.
“I like the high level of resident services that include after-school care, financial literacy and a computer lab as well as a large community space,” said John Leith-Tetrault, HTC awards judge and founder of the National Trust for Community Investment Corporation. “In addition to the need to replace the original tax credit investor, it looks like there had to be significant negotiations with the NPS on retaining the building’s original character.”
The Union at 48 Boylston
Developer: Planning Office for Urban Affairs
The Union at 48 Boylston was built after the Planning Office for Urban Affairs, an experienced affordable housing developer, and St. Francis House (SFH), the largest day-shelter-service provider in Boston, joined forces and combined areas of expertise. The development rehabilitated and converted the former Boston Young Men’s Christian Union, a vacant historic building, into 46 units of affordable housing and approximately 12,000 square feet of administrative office space for SFH, whose current offices are located across the street. It also added commercial space that will provide job training and employment opportunities for St. Francis House residents.
In addition to the challenge of homelessness and providing more affordable housing, the developers had to discover how to best use a historic building with mixed-use spaces and how to support residents who have experienced homelessness while at the same time helping them build community with residents of the larger neighborhood. The combination of the developers’ expertise made that possible.
“Affordable and homeless housing are a challenge filled with obstacles,” said Leith-Tetrault. “Having an experienced supportive services organization located in the building is an advantage for the residents. The provision of job training and employment opportunities speaks to this project's responsiveness to community needs.”