By Anna Klosterman
Each year the National Housing & Rehabilitation Association (NH&RA) celebrates exceptional preservation real estate projects by presenting the J. Timothy Anderson Awards for Excellence in Historic Rehabilitation. Fondly referred to as “The Timmys,” the awards were created as a tribute to Boston architect J. Timothy Anderson, whose work as a pioneer in the adaptive use of historic buildings includes numerous Boston area projects such as Old City Hall. Awards are based on overall design and quality, interpretation and respect of historic elements, innovative approach to construction and use of building materials, impact on the community, sustainability, and financial and market success of the project.
This year’s winners take the industry of historic rehabilitation and strategies of commercial revitalization to new levels of imagination and feature the exemplary work done to restore the past, while simultaneously breathing new life into communities through preservation. From a 1920s apartment hotel in Kansas City renovated for affordable senior housing to unique residential units created in a mid-century Quonset hut in a small Virginia town, these projects are sure to motivate and inspire preservationists nationwide.
Best Commercial/Retail/Non-Residential Project: Old Naval Hospital, Washington, DC
Located on Pennsylvania Avenue near Barrack’s Row, the Old Naval Hospital was built in 1864 in response to a critical need for hospital care for seamen who served on the Potomac River and its tributaries during the Civil War. It continued to serve a variety of purposes including medical and veteran services until 1963. In 2010, the Old Naval Hospital Foundation rehabilitated the building for use as an educational center and gathering place for community residents. The Hill Center, as it is now known, is a vibrant, campus-like hub for cultural enrichment and civic engagement that offers after-school programs for children as well as adult programs such as computer literacy and financial planning.
Best Historic Rehab Using LIHTCs (Low-Income Housing Tax Credits) – Small/Up to $5 MM development cost: Thomas Edison Apartments, Covington, KY
This Art Deco building, constructed in 1938 with funding from the Works Progress Administration, served as a public school for elementary students for 71 years. In 2009 it was decommissioned and abandoned, at which point the site was redeveloped to provide safe and affordable housing in the center of a neighborhood intent on revitalizing itself. The historic school building boasts 26 beautifully restored apartments that feature quality finishes and has served as a catalyst for additional community reinvestment initiatives.
Best Historic Rehab Involving New Construction: Bijou Square, Bridgeport, CT
After 86 years of operation, Bridgeport’s Bijou Theatre went dark in 1996. A visionary local developer, Philip Kuchma, conceived a two-phased redevelopment project to create a mixed-use complex centered on the theater, known today as Bijou Square. Phase one of the project involved the rehabilitation of the Bijou Theatre’s (1910) first floor theater space and adaptive use of its ballroom/dance studio into an architectural studio, as well as rehabilitating the neighboring Jennings Building (1911) into first floor retail and second floor office space. Kuchma’s dream of a vibrant downtown came to fruition with phase two of the project: downtown housing in the form of 323 Fairfield, a new building with first floor retail and 84 affordably priced apartments on the upper four floors.
Best Market-Rate or Mixed-Income Residential: Beckstoffer’s Mill Loft Apartments, Richmond, VA
The historic Beckstoffer mill once provided custom woodwork to clients such as Colonial Williamsburg and the Governor’s Mansion. Today it has been transformed into high-quality, affordable apartments featuring green building technologies. The apartments retain much of the historic character of the mill building, including wood beams and original skylights, with some units featuring preserved woodworking machinery. These loft apartments represent the first phase of a multi-phase initiative, which will include housing for low-income seniors.
Most Innovative Adaptive Reuse: Martinsville Lofts, Martinsville, VA
The Martinsville Novelty Corporation Factory was built in 1929 to house manufacturing operations of small articles of furniture such as occasional tables and cabinets which were called “novelty” pieces. The complex included a three-story main factory building with adjacent drying kilns and wood storage area, a concrete and frame storage building, a factory restaurant, and a Quonset hut dating from the 1940s. This diverse grouping of buildings demanded a creative design solution that retained much of their original character while still creating inviting, affordable residential housing. The result is a blend of industrial charms with a functionality that provides first-class housing to all segments of the community.
Best Historic Rehab Using LIHTCs – Medium/$5-$15 MM development cost: Chatham Senior Apartments, Kansas City, MO
Located on the Broadway Corridor in Kansas City’s residential Old Hyde Park Historic District, the Chatham Hotel was constructed in the 1920s in the Georgian Revival style. By the 1970s, however, the building had become a notorious heroin house--during rehabilitation, construction crews and subcontractors were required to sign a waiver due to the amount of needles and debris on the floor. After more than 20 years of vacancy, renovations began in 2010. The developers were able to retain the building’s historic features while adding green technology, such as solar roof panels, to create 40 apartments for seniors ages 55 and older.
Best Historic Rehab Using LIHTCs – Large/Over $15 MM development cost: Blue Plate Artist Lofts, New Orleans, LA
Constructed in 1941, the Blue Plate Building is one of New Orleans’ best and earliest architectural examples of “Streamline Moderne” design. Originally a mayonnaise factory, the building became vacant following Hurricane Katrina. Today the building has been converted into 72 artist loft apartments, partly financed with LIHTCs. The project is located in a state-designated Cultural District, providing sales-tax-free incentives for the sales of original art within the district. Renovations included insulated window systems and a new fitness center and business center. Residents have already begun to collaborate on artistic projects, such as showings on the first floor public gallery, a fashion show, and several photography engagements.
Best Historic Rehab Using New Markets Tax Credits: Mayo 420 Building, Tulsa, OK
In 1910 Tulsa was on its way to becoming the “oil capital of the world” when the entrepreneurial Mayo brothers constructed an office building to house their growing furniture business. Today Mayo 420 is the oldest office building in the city. The 10-story Art Deco building had been mostly vacant for more than a decade by 2005, when plans began to take shape to rehabilitate it into 67 market-rate loft apartments on the upper floors with retail/office space on the first three floors. The completed project provides important benefits to the surrounding low-income community, including a new YMCA fitness center and metro office that offers youth programs for disadvantaged kids.
Achievement in Sustainability – Judges Award: Oliver Lofts, Boston, MA
Oliver Lofts consists of two historic interconnected mill buildings: the four-story Romanesque Revival “Pickle” building (1892) and the five-story Georgian Revival “Ditson” building, both of historic significance to Boston’s brewing and manufacturing past. Completed in 2011, the project created a mixed-income rental community that provides 62 units--43 of which are designed as LIHTC rental units and are restricted to low-income households and eight of which are reserved for formerly homeless families. Three of the remaining 19 units are designated as artist live/work lofts. The project was awarded LEED Platinum Certification by the US Green Building Council, and is one of only two historic mid-rise buildings in the country to achieve the Platinum distinction. All units are ventilated by both operable windows and mechanical ventilation. The building also features high-performance insulation on all exterior walls and roof surfaces.
Most Innovative Finance – Judges Award: Minvilla Manor, Knoxville, TN
Originally constructed in 1913 as townhouses, Minvilla Manor was rehabilitated as a 57-unit permanent supportive housing development for low and very-low income residents. Located on the busy southwest corner of Broadway and Fifth Avenue, Minvilla is a rare example of pre-suburban townhouses in Knoxville. The Classical Revival townhomes are distinguished with canted bays, multi-light windows and single-story porches. Creatively financed and extremely complex, the project used a rare Master Tenant Lease Pass-Through structure, aka a Sandwich Lease, to maximize LIHTCs, HTCs, and other primary funding including multifamily tax-exempt bonds, a Tax Credit Assistance Program (TCAP) loan from the state housing finance agency. Numerous federal, state, and local grants were awarded to the nonprofit sponsor and subsequently bundled and loaned into the development. The project demonstrates how community stakeholders can leverage innovative financing to achieve housing, preservation, and community development goals.
Anna Klosterman is the Marketing and Communications manager at the National Trust Community Investment Corporation (NTCIC).