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The Foglia Residences at The Chicago Lighthouse Twins LIHTCs to Help Blind, Visually Impaired in Chicago

Published by Nick DeCicco on Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Journal Cover December 2022   Download PDF

Though Illinois-based Brinshore Development has built more than 10,000 apartments in 20 states, one in-construction affordable housing property holds special significance for one of the firm’s co-founders.

For The Foglia Residences at The Chicago Lighthouse, a 76-apartment property in Chicago’s 27th Ward geared toward the blind and visually impaired, Brinshore co-founder and principal David Brint was inspired by his youngest son, 25-year-old Alan, who has been blind since birth.

As a result, the Brint family has had a decades-long relationship with the nonprofit organization. The Chicago Lighthouse, which has for more than a century helped the blind, visually impaired, disabled people and veterans through vision rehabilitation services, education, employment opportunities and assistive technology for people of all ages. Brint once served on the board of the organization.

The Chicago Lighthouse’s services in the Illinois Medical District (IMD)–an area in the Second City that hosts four of the region’s major hospitals–the next step in the Brints’ journey with the organization was to develop an affordable housing project on the nonprofit’s land. Brint said his life experience makes him especially attuned to the details necessary to take on a development such as The Foglia Residences, which is being built in part with equity from 4% and 9% state and federal low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs).

“Fortunately, it’s something that I know a little bit about,” Brint said. “I have a son that I used to bring in when he was younger and have him walk our buildings and touch all of the braille signs to make sure they were all accurate.”

Brint said it’s believed to be the first residential affordable housing development to use LIHTCs that is geared especially toward blind and/or visually impaired individuals in the United States. He noted Selis Manor, a public housing development in New York City with design elements tailored for people who are visually impaired, but said tax credits likely makes The Foglia Residences the first of its kind.

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Community leaders in the Chicago area break ground in August on The Foglia Residences at The Chicago Lighthouse, a 76-apartment lowincome housing tax credit building directed at people who are blind or visually impaired. Brinshore Development is developing the property.

 

Windy City Synergy

The Foglia Residences are named after the Foglia family, who provided a donation to the development through The Foglia Family Foundation, a private charitable organization based in Chicago. The development will host a total of 76 studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments, as well as a fitness center, a community room, ground-level retail and residential parking. Nineteen residents will receive project-based vouchers. Because of the use of income averaging, those living at The Foglia Residences will earn up to 30%, 60% and 80% of the area median income. The property is near a bus stop as well as a pair of stops for the Chicago Transit Authority’s “L” train system. Brint also highlighted the proximity of a call center business campus near the future Foglia Apartments residence and said it will “make life easier for people who work at the call center to find affordable housing that is close to where they work.” Brint said the IMD was desirous of the development, helping Brinshore secure LIHTCs on their first application.

Landon Bone Baker served as architect with help from Chris Downey, an architect who became blind after surgery to remove a tumor in his brain in the 2000s. Downey has designed or consulted on several large-scale endeavors, including San Francisco’s Transbay Transit Center. Construction is supervised through McShane Ashlaur, a joint venture comprised of McShane Construction Company and Ashlaur Construction.

Efforts will be made within The Foglia Residences to best accommodate tenants who may be blind, visually impaired or otherwise disabled, including contrasting colors in common areas, braille signage and wallpaper, handrails on both sides of corridors and more. Brint said the design also includes tactile highlights for people who are visually impaired to track and identify the flow of the building and apartments.

The Chicago Lighthouse is situated next door to the new property and will provide services to residents such as occupational therapy, transition therapies for people whose vision is declining, case management services and more. Brint underlined that Lighthouse’s services are not exclusively for the blind and visually impaired but geared toward helping with a panoply of disabilities.

Adding The Foglia Residences to the legacy of The Chicago Lighthouse grows what the organization has always been about, which is providing services and solutions for those who are blind, visually impaired, disabled and/or veterans, said Dr. Janet P. Szlyk, the organization’s president and CEO.

“For 116 years, The Chicago Lighthouse has been an invaluable resource for people who are blind, visually impaired, disabled and veterans,” Szlyk said. “Our programs providing education, low vision diagnosis and rehabilitation, assistive technology, and employment opportunities have helped countless individuals build confidence and independence. This new venture is an exciting step toward addressing our community’s growing need for safe, affordable, and accessible housing.”

A Lighthouse spokesperson underscored the importance of The Foglia Residences as a building that incorporated accessibility elements at the design stage, emphasizing that adding accessibility elements before walls even begin going up can improve the experience for residents, but can also save developers on the cost of retrofitting a building later in its lifespan.

Confronting Challenges

Brint said the greatest difficulty on The Foglia Residences has been financially closing in a time of great uncertainty. “The financing has been quite a challenge,” Brint said. “Educating The Chicago Lighthouse board is a challenge. It’s their responsibility to be diligent about what’s happening on their land, on their property. It takes a great deal of time to educate a nonprofit about what risks they’re taking, what the benefits are. They’re a very judicious board. I’ve worked with lots of nonprofits. This one had a lot of good questions.”

Brint said incorporating details to make the building more accessible added a layer of complexity to The Foglia Residences. In addition to signage, handrails and contrasting colors are design elements such as designing areas in rows so residents can navigate spaces with less worry of tripping hazards. He said smaller units make spaces easier for the blind and visually impaired to navigate. Much of the building doesn’t have carpet. He said the scale of elements that must be considered goes from how the building is designed to something as small as opening doors.

“You think about even things like key fobs,” Brint said. “You think, ‘Oh, that’s putting good technology to use.” But people have to know where to put it. They have to have something tactile to show where the key fob goes in addition to just having the fob.”

Brint said the property is the first time the city of Chicago has allowed a residential property in the IMD area.

“They could have stopped it in its tracks if they wanted,” Brint said. “The city of Chicago identified this as a unique opportunity to serve a population and an agency that is an institution in Chicago. The agency’s been in business for over 100 years. They understand the services they provide are invaluable. The services (the Lighthouse) provide for people who are visually impaired are critical in addition to finding jobs and normalizing lives.”

Financing

The total cost of The Foglia Residences is $48.1 million. The development received $27.6 million in federal LIHTC equity. National Equity Fund (NEF) invested in the federal tax credits.

“At NEF, we believe that all individuals and families across the country should have access to stable, safe and affordable homes that meet their needs,” said Rachel Rhodes, managing director of the central region at NEF. “And achieving that goal requires working with dedicated partners who share our determination. I have been honored to work with Brinshore for over 20 years, experiencing their passion and perseverance firsthand, and they have outdone themselves here. The Foglia Residences is a truly innovative undertaking in many ways–from the physical building design to the services provided to the complexity of the financing structure. NEF is incredibly proud to have been a part of making this dream a reality right in our own backyard here in Chicago.”

Additional participants in the capital stack include CIBC Bank USA (CIBC), which provided a construction loan just shy of $28 million as well as another $2.3 million in Illinois state LIHTCs. In addition to its work as a lender and investor, Brint and Rhodes noted CIBC’s role as the upper-tier investor in NEF’s tax credit equity investment.

“NEF could not have done a 9/4 twinning deal with income averaging and held pricing as long as we did if we didn’t have a flexible, committed upper-tier investor along for the ride,” Rhodes said.

Brint agreed. “Rachel is absolutely correct in that CIBC viewed this as a mission-driven investment and did everything they could to make the project work in a time of great uncertainty and volatility,” Brint said.

The Foglia Residences received $7.3 million in Chicago HOME funds. The development also included a $5 million seller note and a $746,728 deferred developer fee for Brinshore. Chase Bank provided a $3.6 million permanent loan.

Completion of construction is anticipated in March 2024.

THE FOGLIA RESIDENCES AT THE CHICAGO LIGHTHOUSE

Financing

  • $28 million construction loan from CIBC Bank USA (CIBC)
  • $27.6 million in federal 9% low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) equity from the National Equity Fund (NEF)
  • $7.3 million in city of Chicago HOME funds
  • $5 million seller note
  • $3.6 million permanent loan from Chase Bank
  • $2.3 million in 4% Illinois state LIHTC equity from CIBC
  • $746,728 deferred developer fee
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