By Kevin Oklobzija. (May 31, 2023). Rochester Business Journal. Original Article
A residential modernization project years in the making and long overdue is finally underway at Cobbs Hill Village Apartments.
When the three-phase, $36.9 million renovation initiative is completed in 2026, the antiquated motel-style apartment complex will be transformed into a two-building, 80-unit community with an additional 24 townhome units to be built alongside.
So not only have 60 affordable senior housing units been preserved, 44 are being added. And there will be no rent increase for current residents now or for as long as they remain tenants.
For Rochester Management Inc., the property owner, the redevelopment has been nearly a decade in the making, with plans put on hold and then adjusted after a lawsuit by neighbors, appeals of court rulings and desires by city of Rochester planning officials.
“We’re excited to bring something better to the residents,” said Peggy Hill, president and CEO of Rochester Management. “We made a commitment to bring modern apartments to the 60 residents we have there now, and to also provide more senior housing. There’s so much need.”
Cobbs Hill Village, a strip motel-style string of apartments adjacent to Cobbs Hill Park’s softball fields, was built in 1957. The units are small and lack basic conveniences. The walls, floors and ceiling are concrete and air quality is an issue, Hill said.
“The kitchens are very tiny with only two electric outlets and undersized appliances,” she said. “They’re dark, have very little natural light and poor ventilation.”
The current studio apartment has just 378 square feet of living space. New studios will be 650 square feet. The current one-bedroom unit is 540 square feet — that will increase to 715. The new community will also have some two-bedroom units (1,030 square feet).
“The units now are really small and that’s what made it impossible to renovate,” Hill said. “They were so small, they don’t have the space to make them ADA-compliant, nor are they space-friendly.”
The new community was designed by SWBR, which has expertise in creating practical senior housing. The units are designed so they can be converted over time to accommodate changing needs as residents age in place.
Construction, by Pike Construction Services, will be done in three phases. The first three-story, 40-unit building will be built on vacant land. The second phase will involve demolition of three existing buildings and the creation of another three-story, 40-unit building. The final phase will involve building the 24 townhouse units.
Each phase will take about a year. Phase One should be completed by spring of 2024, Hill said.
The total cost of the project is $36.9 million. Rochester Management secured funding from the New York State Housing Finance Agency Mitchell Lama Program, Community Preservation Corp., its own sources and NYSERDA.
Project costs increased about $2.5 million in order to honor requests from neighborhood groups and the city planning commission. That included less building height and the addition of townhouse units. Rather than vinyl siding, the buildings will have a wood-like appearance with fiber-cement siding.
Rochester Management also will have an arborist prepare an analysis and inventory of trees and then create a plan to maintain and protect the healthy, mature trees on site.
“The process was long but it really brought a lot of great ideas from the community at large,” Hill said. “We’re looking forward to having a really great, inclusive neighborhood.”
The current complex has no office or gathering space. Those will be features of the new community, along with a library, computer room and fitness area.
“We want to help seniors avoid isolation and allow them to get together, if they choose to do so,” Hill said. “Our residents love their neighborhood. Many have worked or volunteered in that area for years.”
Rent will remain at some of the lowest affordable levels in the area. Studio apartments will remain at $332 and one-bedroom unit rent will be $508. The two-bedroom units will rent for between $850 and $925 for residents earning between 60 percent and 80 percent of the Area Median Income. Townhomes range between $715 and $1,170.
The maximum income requirements will be stringent in order to meet guidelines for affordable housing communities, Hill said.
“This project will help alleviate the critical need for affordable housing,” Hill said. “It also furthers our nearly 75-year history of providing quality affordable housing to those in need.”