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CHP Announces “NoBo on Long” Condo Development

Walker Evans Walker Evans
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This morning, Mayor Coleman, City Councilmember A. Troy Miller, and Amy Klaben, CEO of the Columbus Housing Partnership are unveiling “NoBo on Long”, a new affordable condominium development located on the Near East Side. This development consists of nine condo units spread across three buildings at the corner of 21st Street and Long Street in the King Lincoln District.

We recently spoke with Craig Murphy, Director at Homeport, a division of the Columbus Housing Partnership, to discuss this new development.

Walker Evans: So tell us a little about “NoBo on Long” and how this will compliment the existing NoBo development area.

Craig Murphy: Our interest is in bringing North of Broad to Long Street. We will renovate an existing structure, which is a duplex 1066 E. Long Street, and then we’ll build seven new units, two that will face Long Street and five that will face 21st Street. The existing building will consist of 2 identical units, each have 1,800 square feet of living space and 450 square feet of flex-space on the 3rd floor. Two 2-car garages will be located behind the unit. The two new buildings each have one parking space in a garage under each dwelling unit, accessed from a driveway via an alley on the north side of the site.  Six of the seven new build units will be one bedroom units with 925 square feet of space, which includes 1.5 baths per unit. There will be one 1,400 square foot unit with two-bedrooms and 1.5 baths. The buildings will have adequate green space separating the buildings from the public walkway. We are also including a small enclosed patio space over the garage, accessed through the kitchen.

Our projected sales prices and square footage is as follows:

925 sqft
Unit #143 – $110,000
Unit #147 – $110,000
Unit #145 – $115,000
Unit #149 – $115,000
Unit #141 – $115,000
Unit #1072 – $115,000

1,400 sqft
Unit #137 – $135,000

1,800 sqft
Unit #1066 – $155,000
Unit #1070 – $160,000

WE: So it sounds like these units are going to be sold at the same affordable price structure as the rest of the NoBo development?

CM: Yeah, the upper income limit for the project is 120% of the Area Median Income, which is $57,720 for an individual and $65,880 for a household of two people. Our pricing coupled with the required income guidelines make this a great, affordable ownership opportunity for people seeking to live in the King Lincoln District. And we’re trying to create a housing option that is not a single-family home like the rest of NoBo, and with it a new pricepoint that is below the price point of our single family homes.

Also, we’re using Neighborhood Stabilization Funds in this project, so the upside to that is that these units will meet the Enterprise Green Communities Standards, which is one of the highest green standards in the building industry right now. So we’re using recycled materials, no off-gassing materials, high insulation standards, and so on. These are very tight structures that have air exchange units to pump in fresh air while keeping energy efficiency high. We also minimize our construction waste and recycle construction materials.

I should also add that Huntington National Bank has made a very large commitment to the community by making available two amazing loan products designed for our buyers. These two products are only being offered through us to our clients because we offer 8 hours of free homebuyer education and budget counciling, which is a requirements to get this type of mortgage.

One product they offer requires your credit score to be above 700, and if you qualify under the other underwriting guidelines, you can get a point off your interest rate, fixed for 30 years. So that means you could get a 4.5% interest rate, fixed for 30 years, with up to a 15-year tax abatement on this project. That’s a pretty phenominal deal. And if you don’t have a credit score of 700, they have another product that can go as low as 580. There’s no PMI on that one, and it only requires 3% down.

The reason Huntington offers these deals is because of our track record. People who buy our homes can afford our homes. We do all of the work on the front end to make sure people can buy and stay in our homes. In the past six years we’ve sold 82 homes and we’ve had zero foreclosures during that time. That’s the reason that Huntington can be pretty competitive with their mortgage products with us… because of this relationship and because of the work we do with our buyers.

WE: What sort of construction timeline do you have in place for this project?

CM: Our intent is to break ground in late August, Early September and expect to be done by late Spring, early Summer 2011. We’re really eager to get this going. We’ve put a lot of time into this in the past six months. We’ve sold 22 homes on 21st street in the past four or five years, and we’ve made a lot of progress, and this project will serve as a nice gateway into 21st Street and begin to take that development and impact onto Long Street.

WE: With the NoBo development selling so well, do you think the same type of demand will carry over to this next phase?

CM: I think so. I think it’s an affordable price and an amazing product for that price, and it’s a unique offering. You’re not going to find many 1-bedroom condos at this price point with this material, so it’s going to be a very competitive product. We’re building for the future in this neighborhood, so I think those who are buying today will have a long term benefit in owning. The quality of the buildings and design is long-term. These units offer a very modern living on the interior, but the exterior matches the same design concepts of the neighborhood. Because this is a mixed income neighborhood, it was really important for us to make it so that to the casual observer, you can’t tell the difference between the house that sells for $170k and the one next to it that sells for $140k. No one should be able to distinguish between the two from the exterior.

WE: When your talking to homebuyers about these developments, are there selling points that you talk about in regards to the neighborhood or proximity to Downtown? Are people gravitating toward this project because of amenities outside of their homes?

CM: I think so. I think people enjoy living in Downtown neighborhoods, but many of the Downtown neighborhoods are extremely expensive. So by creating these affordable alternatives, we’ve been able to really sell this neighborhood. We sell to single people, to couples, to families, to older people, and we’ve been very successful at that. There’s a demand, and this isn’t a niche demand. One of the nice things about this neighborhood is that there’s a rich history here and people want to value that history and honor it. I think overwhelming that the feeling from people who have bought here is that they’ve made a good decision, and that they enjoy the neighborhood.

WE: When looking around the city at other neighborhood stabilization projects it seems that NoBo is a much more condensed effort with the majority of development happening all on the same block. Do you think the success of this project over the past five years is attributed to that “neighborhood within a neighborhood” type of plan?

CM: Absolutely. Nobody wants to be the only person on their street. If you’re a part of something larger, it’s a lot easier to deal with some of the challenges that exist in Downtown neighborhoods. That’s exactly what this is. We spent years slowly and strategically buying property, and no one has been displaced in our acquisition efforts. We’ve acquired only vacant property. The majority of the properties we’ve purchased have been foreclosed or bank-owned properties where investors were flipping to one another until the last guy got caught holding the hot potato and it foreclosed. We’ve seen property go as high as $130k and then two years later go through foreclosure and we bought it for $30k. We were patient and we waited and bought at the right price. The City of Columbus has also purchased some property int his area to help support our future development plans, because we’re not done here at 21st Street. So that’s been a real benefit of the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. It’s all about creating a mixed-income neighborhood and piecing together the physical development and the social infrastructure as well. We have to put equal energy into that. You can put buildings just about anywhere, but it’s the people and the connectivity between the people that creates neighborhoods, so I think that’s been our biggest success.

WE: You mentioned acquiring only vacant property. I know there was some controversy about the vacant building on the corner of Long & 21st that some neighbors wanted to see preserved. Can you share some information with us about that?

CM: Yeah, the City of Columbus purchased the property and immediately assessed the condition of the property to determine what risk and liability they had with it. That assessment determined that the building required emergency demolition, so that’s what followed. Our intent is to provide quality homes and housing opportunities and whether it’s a new building or renovated building, it’s indifferent to us because we’ve done both. Decisions have to be made, and they’re sometimes difficult decisions, and we understand the frustrating nature of that. So our intent is to do the best we can with whatever we are replacing and provide great quality and something that the neighborhood can be proud of. When we are addressing existing structures, we have to take a hard look at the economics and the history of a property. I think the City of Columbus was in a difficult position on this one, but they had to do what they had to do to keep the public safe, and they demolished the property. In all fairness, that property sat vacant for 15 years, and it was a very unstable property. I think it’s important to recognize where the city has made an effort to save buildings such as the Charles and the Edna that have historic significance in the community, and they’ve made investments to repair those structures or preserve those structures. So that always needs to be included in the conversation when looking at the context of the whole and not just this one isolated scenario.

WE: As you just mentioned, NoBo is a mix of renovations and new builds, which isn’t something you can easily do in an area like German Village or Victorian Village where there are tighter historic review procedures. Do you think that having some flexibility with development in this area lends itself to a more architecturally diverse neighborhood?

CM: Yeah, you obviously have flexibility when you’re not regulated. However, if we’re using any federal money on a property, it requires that we go through a historic review. And we’ve also done historic renovations on 21st street. We did the first green historic home in a partnership with the City of Columbus at 267 N. 21st Street where we experimented three or four years ago with green rehab. So yeah, we do have some more options and flexibility, but the market is really the driver here. A lot of the time, as a nonprofit, our job is to go in and create markets where markets don’t exist… but there already is an existing market here for rehabbed historic buildings. So in responding to that market, we have to make sure that we offer a variety of products and options.

WE: The intersection of 21st and Long Street is an interesting location. As you head east of 21st toward the OSU East Hospital, it’s more of a residential street, but headed west of 21st toward Downtown, it’s more of a commercial corridor. Have you thought about what it might look like to work on some mixed-use development on Long Street where we might find ground-floor retail with a few floors of residential units above?

CM: Absolutely. Our expertise is in residential development, but we are very open to the idea of mixed use development. If there’s an opportunity for us to develop closer into the King Lincoln District, we’d like to incorporate mixed use into that development. Again, it’s also a function of the market. We’ve tried to do mixed use in the past and we’ve actively found small businesses to lease commercial spaces. At the time it was a really difficult thing to do, and it’s still not an easy task today.

WE: I imagine that sort of development would get easier to sell commercially as you continue to build upon a critical mass of residential units in the neighborhood.

CM: Right. And we do already have a residential base in this community, so on some level there could be more retail opportunities for the existing residents of the neighborhood. It’s a very exciting time over here. For a long time we’ve had to sell the vision of the area to the homeowners, but now that we can actually say that there are two coffee shops and a dry cleaner and the Lincoln Theatre in the neighborhood, whereas five years ago we could only say “it’ll be here soon!”. It’s been great to see the evolution and the growth, and our goal is to help accelerate that. We’ve closed five homes already this year, and we have three more in contract that we’re building, and several more prospects that we’re working with. So the market’s responding. You do need to get to a critical mass, because you do have some people who will operate more on a vision and be willing to be pioneers, but there are others who will come when it’s been demonstrated, and I think that’s where we are now. You can see it, feel it, and walk through it, and that’s great for the area.

WE: To close out on a bit of an aspirational note… where do you see NoBo and the neighborhood headed over the next 10-15 years?

CM: Overwhelmingly, I’d love to see us work ourselves out of this neighborhood because our job is to create the market as a nonprofit and then move to the next area that needs assistance. Here in this neighborhood we want to create the housing opportunities and create the market and create a great place to live by connecting residents and connecting businesses and sort of linking that energy and momentum. There are other key developments we’d like to do here in the future, but we’d like to see the private market take over too. We have some other big projects that we’re working on, and we’ll begin construction in a neighborhood called American Addition this fall, which is a big project where we plan to be doing redevelopment work for the next 8 to 10 years. It’s been a tough story in American Addition. It’s very different than North of Broad, which is a very urban neighborhood. American Addition is more of a forgotten island that never had the appropriate infrastructure. You have 200 households out there and they didn’t have sewer lines installed until 1970. So we’re excited about working with the homeowners and residents in that neighborhood and also bringing new people there. We’ve done a lot to capture the stories. We’ve done an oral history documentary of the families there to capture what things used to be like, because over the next five to ten years we’d like to help imrpove that neighborhood. Just like with North of Broad, we’d like the existing homeowners to benefit from the development and new residents as well. Nothing is being done on the backs of anybody else. Everybody should benefit from these efforts.

WE: Great! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today, Craig.

CM: My pleasure.

More information can be found online at www.northofbroad.com.

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