In July of 2021, three towns and cities in the state of New York completed construction on affordable housing and corridor redevelopment projects designed specifically to help revitalize their downtowns.
Readers of last year’s pioneering book, RECONOMICS: The Path To Resilient Prosperity will remember how crucial affordable housing is to the success of many city center revitalization efforts.
All three projects are part of former Governor Andrew M. Cuomo‘s $20 billion, five-year plan to provide access to safe, affordable housing by building and preserving more than 100,000 units of affordable housing and 6,000 units of supportive housing.
In the heart of downtown Saratoga Springs, Promenade Apartments, a $20 million affordable and supportive housing redevelopment was completed. Financed in part with $16.5 million in low-income tax credits through New York State Homes and Community Renewal, the development is providing 63 affordable homes, including 10 apartments reserved for homeless veterans.
“As we build back New York better than it was before, we must acknowledge the critical role that affordable and supportive housing plays in helping grow vibrant communities throughout the state,” former Governor Cuomo said. “This development is providing affordable homes aimed at ensuring that Saratoga Springs remains a place where everyone has the opportunity to live, work and raise a family -especially those servicemen and women who served our country with honor.”
Promenade Apartments consists of a four-story building with 41 apartments and three two-story townhouse-style buildings with a total of 22 units. Altogether, the development features 31 one-bedroom, 26 two-bedroom, and 6 three-bedroom apartments -all affordable to households earning at or below 80 percent of the area median income.
Developed by Norstar Development USA, L.P. and the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority, the project includes 10 apartments reserved for individuals who need supportive services with a preference for veterans. Supportive services will be provided by the Veterans & Community Housing Coalition.
Mayor Meg Kelly said, “As detailed in our 2020 Community Development Consolidated Plan, the creation of affordable housing continues to be an overarching priority for the City. I am pleased to say that we have made tremendous progress on this effort in the last five years. Seven projects with a possible 510 new affordable housing units have been completed, are currently under construction, or in the approval process. The Saratoga Springs Public Housing Authority has been a crucial partner in this effort -adding 63 high-quality units through the Promenade Project, and another 24 at the Vanderbilt and Jefferson Terraces, to be completed shortly.”
Amenities include Energy Star appliances, a community room with laundry facility, a fitness room, storage space for tenants and an outdoor playground area. The development is also located within a half-mile of retail stores, schools, bus transportation lines, pharmacies, banks, libraries, health centers, grocery stores and restaurants.
July also saw the completion of the $3.5 million West Main Street extension, a transformative streetscape project in historic downtown Lancaster that received $2.5 million from the Smart Growth Community Fund.
The project created a pedestrian-friendly extension of West Main Street and is part an effort to restore a swath of the village’s Central Business District that was devastated by fire more than 60 years ago.
The project extended West Main Street to Aurora Street and converted it to accommodate two-way traffic, sidewalks, on-street parking, light poles, landscape amenities such as planters and benches, and pedestrian crossings. In addition, the project relocated and upgraded utility lines, added easy-to-read street signage to guide visitors, and created a new mini roundabout at the new intersection of West Main Street and Aurora Street.
The project is part of a larger $8.5 million restoration that includes Cayuga Creek Park and two roundabouts.
Lancaster Mayor Lynne Ruda said, “The West Main Street Extension project has brought a vitality to the Central Business District in the village of Lancaster that has not been seen in 60 years. The Buffalo Billion has transformed the heart of our downtown core in a way we could have never imagined.”
The goal of the extension is to reimage the village’s Central Business District as a vibrant, mixed-use destination that offers a ‘shop, stroll, stay’ experience for both residents and visitors. The completion of work has created a collective momentum among the village’s business owners, the Community Development Corporation, the Beautification Committee, the Lancaster Area Chamber of Commerce, and passionate residents alike to build on the existing, thriving business district in the heart of the Lancaster community.
The area of the West Main Street extension was devastated by a fire more than 60 years ago and the village has struggled to revitalize this swath of its business district ever since. In 2018, Lancaster was awarded up to $2.5 million through the Smart Growth Community Fund -part of the Governor’s Buffalo Billion initiative -to advance planned community and economic development.
The ten-acre area selected for revitalization includes historic buildings and a traditional walkable downtown surrounded by residential neighborhoods. Focused on an area that includes a growing arts and cultural hub, the award has already helped to attract new businesses and private development, including a development with six lower-level retail spaces and 18 second-floor apartments.
Meanwhile, over in Schenectady, Northside Village—a $29.3 million public housing redevelopment in the Goose Hill/Northside neighborhood—was completed.
As the first phase of the Yates Village revitalization, this project substantially rehabilitated 25 existing apartments and added 64 new homes along Van Vranken Avenue, including 18 supportive housing units reserved people with disabilities and veterans.
Built in 1948, the 300-unit Yates Village covers 20 acres and is the largest public housing development in the city. The second phase is expected to break ground this fall and includes the redevelopment of 211 affordable apartments.
Mayor Gary McCarthy said, “This is an exciting day as we announce the completed first phase of the new Northside Village affordable housing redevelopment. Quality affordable housing is a lifeline for working families, especially during the pandemic, which is why this new redevelopment is so critical. On behalf of the city, we thank the leadership at Pennrose, and the Schenectady Municipal Housing Authority, Metroplex, and Homes and Community Renewal for their partnership and the incredible joint effort that made this possible for Schenectady.”
Managed by Pennrose Management Company, Northside Village provides one-, two-, and three-bedroom townhouse and garden-style affordable apartments that are available to households earning at or below 80 percent of the area median income, with 57 units supported by the Schenectady Municipal Housing Authority‘s Section 8 project-based vouchers. In addition, 18 units of supportive housing are set aside for individuals with special needs and veterans.
The modern apartments feature contemporary kitchens with electric range and dishwasher, in-unit washer and dryer, spacious closets, and central air conditioning. The first phase also added a 12,000-square-foot community building to development, with another 3,000 square feet dedicated to amenities, including a fitness center, playground, and management suite.
Residents temporarily relocated during the first phase of construction were given priority to return to the revitalized community. Additional space will be leased to Boys and Girls Clubs of Schenectady, Bethesda House food pantry, and the Schenectady Community Action Program early learning center, with all three nonprofit service providers supported with funding from the Schenectady Foundation.
The development team consists of Duvernay + Brooks, LLC; Pennrose, LLC and and the Schenectady Municipal Housing Authority. New York State Homes and Community Renewal‘s support for Northside Village includes federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits that generated $15.7 in equity; $3.8 million from the Housing Trust Fund and $1.4 million through its Community Investment Fund programs.
Photo of downtown Lancaster courtesy of Village of Lancaster.