Community Celebrates Cedar Avenue Apartments

Bronx, NY – Morris Heights residents joined local and New York State officials today for a ribbon-cutting celebrating the grand opening of Cedar Avenue Apartments, a unique mixed-tenancy development providing both affordable and service-enriched housing for individuals and families earning less than 60% of area median income and for individuals with histories of chronic mental illness.

“This is a fantastic accomplishment,” said Michael Hogan, Commissioner of the New York State Office of Mental Health (OMH). “Community Access and Alembic Community Development deserve great credit for crafting a development approach that allows integrating and serving diverse populations in such a beautiful space. OMH is proud to be a partner in this effort.”

Cedar Avenue Apartments Ribbon Cutting

In addition to the integrated housing model pioneered by Community Access, the lead sponsor, more than 20 years ago, Cedar Avenue Apartments features the first-ever collaboration between OMH and the New York State Housing Finance Agency (part of New York State Homes and Community Renewal (HCR)). Alembic Community Development, Community Access’ development partner, played a key role in finalizing the complex financing structure supporting the development.

“Cedar Avenue Apartments, with its many and diverse financing streams, is a model for future supportive housing development across New York State,” HCR Commissioner/ CEO Darryl Towns said. “Governor Andrew Cuomo has spoken of the need for cooperative relationships to break down silos and advance us to a new New York. I congratulate Community Access and Alembic for doing just that, and especially for persevering when it looked like the financial crisis might scuttle this deal. This is a great day for this community.”

“Our experience has proven that a mixed housing model promotes social integration, reduces the stigma attached to ‘special needs’ housing, and promotes overall community development,” Community Access CEO Steve Coe said. “Low turnover rates and high tenant satisfaction speaks volumes about the success of this model.”

Cedar Avenue Apartments comprises 105 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom affordable apartments for low-income individuals and families, including individuals with a history of mental illness and homelessness. In addition to the apartments, Cedar Avenue includes an office suite for on-site supportive services, a variety of community space and a green roof terrace.

“Alembic Community Development is proud to partner with Community Access in this wonderful project,” Alembic Principal Mark Reed said. “This journey together started some time ago, and as others have mentioned, hit a few bumps in the road. But our partners at OMH and HCR, as well as at HSBC and TD Bank, stood by us through it all. Today, we celebrate the fruits of our shared commitment to that vision.”

Financing for the $38 million development included tax-exempt bonds and low-interest loans through HCR, 4-percent federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits and a letter of credit guaranteed by HSBC and TD Bank. In addition, the development received a grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency (NYSERDA) to support green energy design features. OMH financed the construction of the supportive apartments and is providing ongoing funding for the on-site social services and rent subsidies for tenants with disabilities. The Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) provided a pre-development loan to help with startup costs.

The architect was Peter L. Woll Architect P.C., and the general contractor was HLS Builders Corp.

“Cedar Avenue Apartments is an extraordinarily cutting-edge development,” said Bill Traylor, President of Richman Housing Resources, which marshaled the equity investment into the project. “You need to remember that when this deal closed we were in the depths of the recession and ‘cutting-edge’ was not an easy sell. HSBC Bank, the equity investor, did a fantastic job getting its arms around the Cedar transaction and making it work.”

“I’m proud to stand with everyone today and celebrate this latest addition to our wonderful community,” Community Board 5 Chairman Bola Omotosho said. “I thank all those who helped make this happen.”

Founded in 1974 in response to the mass release of patients from New York’s psychiatric hospitals, Community Access assists people with psychiatric disabilities in making the transition from shelters and institutions to independent living. The agency provides safe, affordable housing and support services, and advocates for the rights of people to live without fear or stigma.

Alembic Community Development works to transform low-income communities and to strengthen the non-profit organizations that serve them. From its beginnings as a community development consulting practice in 1998, Alembic Community Development has grown into a full-service community development support organization and has helped local nonprofits plan and development close to 300 affordable homes and apartments.

For details of the Cedar Avenue Project, please visit the Cedar Avenue Project page.

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