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Proposal for Front and Long Would Add Affordable Housing Downtown

Brent Warren Brent Warren Proposal for Front and Long Would Add Affordable Housing DowntownPhoto by Walker Evans.
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A collection of buildings at the southeast corner of Front and Long Streets Downtown is being considered for redevelopment as workforce housing; about 40 units of affordable apartments would sit on top of street-level retail. The project, along with another potential development on the South Side, would be the first under the city’s new Housing Works program, which Mayor Michael Coleman first announced at this year’s State of the City address.

The city is working with Brad DeHays of Connect Realty on the Downtown project. He said that the development is still in the most preliminary of stages, but that construction could start in the summer of 2015 if all goes according to plan.

“Our goal is to renovate the historic structures into residential apartments with luxury finishes at an affordable price point,” he said, adding that the partnership with the city is necessary “in order for the economics of the development to make sense; Mayor Coleman and the Development Department laid out a plan to provide housing that is affordable for the work force near job centers.”

DeHays said that project would feature a mix of one-bedroom, studio, and “micro-apartments.”

Housing Administrator Rita Parise explained that the Housing Works program — which is funded from the city’s capital budget for $1 million this year and $2 million for the next five years — is designed to assist with the initial cost of development and reduce the debt developers would have to pay per unit.

“The idea behind Housing Works is to provide housing for those working people who cannot afford the current market rate housing,” she said. “We anticipate that the Downtown project will serve households in the 80% to 120% Area Median Income range – or about $38,000 to $58,000 for one person.”

She stressed that the city has yet to officially receive applications for either the Downtown project or the one on the South Side, although discussions have been ongoing and promising.

The Housing Works initiative is relatively flexible; open to both for-profit and non-profit developers, and with no neighborhood restrictions (although projects close to employment centers are preferred). Parise also said they are open to mixed-income projects, where a certain number of the units would be affordable and the rest would be market-rate.

“We are looking for good projects that really address the issue of workforce housing in the community,” she said.

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