Tuesday, December 29, 2009

About the Union Building Project

We looked for the best use of the three-story Union Building and found housing with services (also called “permanent supportive housing”) to be not only much needed in Crookston, but a chance to help people.  In order to apply for grants, the project had to have a name.  We called it “KT Apartments” after Kari Thompson who passed away the year I started working on the project.  When completed the project will contain 11 units for the very low income, (single parents, students, min. wage job workers), 5 of which will be designated for the “long-term homeless” as defined by HUD, (folks who have struggled with homelessness more than a few times.)   This 1.2 million project doesn't interest the large developers and is too big for small developers.  Only a non-profit could do this project.

The goal is to rehab the three-story brick walk-up building. It is located at 111 W Robert Street in the historic commercial district of Crookston registered with the National Register of Historic Places.  The building needs a new roof, asbestos abatement, and sprinklering.  KT Apartments is a substantial rehab, acquisition, and rental assistance project. The building is a three story historic building with commercial space available on the main floor. This building was chosen because there are no lead pipes, the building is set up for electric heat in the apartments with individual meters in place, wiring meets code, plumbing meets code, it is structurally sound, historic preservation costs are low, and the basement is dry. 

It is located 2 doors from the Northwest Minnesota Mental Health satellite office and coffee house that employs those with mental illness and disabilities. It is well positioned for tenants to access parks, buses, shopping, services, and schools.  The building has parking across the street, behind the building and behind the building in a City owned lot that is available to the project. The first floor space houses a closed consignment shop.  The building measures 50’ x 100’ and totals 15,000 square feet, of which 10,000 square feet is apartments. The basement is used for storage.

A long list of proven energy-saving features will be incorporated: airtight envelope, maximum insulation, Energy Star appliances, compact fluorescent light bulbs, Individual electric furnaces w/demand controllers gives tenants an affordable 3cents/kwh rate.  Ceiling fans, bamboo shades and low-emissivity windows, are included.

The six-brick thick walls absorb and sequester heat to help keep the apartments cool in the summer and warmer in the winter, cutting down on cooling and heating demands.  The building has 36 deteriorated single pane windows some of which have been filled in to a size too small for proper egress or lighting.  We will  replace the roof with a cool roof” made of light-colored reflective materials, that keeps heat from being absorbed by the roof and conducted into the building, and can provide a 30-percent reduction in peak heat gain into the building during summer afternoons.

The City of Crookston requires sprinkling on all three floors and the basement of the building.  There is no elevator; however the stairway and landings are spacious but dark. A skylight will be installed to light up the stairway and common areas and stairs to the second and third floors.  The other skylight is damaged and is leaking into a third floor apartment where it once again will be used to light up the stairway and landings. These will be louvered for heat gain and heat escape.  The landings will be made into common areas for talking, playing games, and watching TV to give the sense of family so necessary to those who return again and again to the Emergency Shelter.

About 1/3 of the brick needs tuck-pointing,  The North, East and West, and South windows will each have the appropriate window to maximize heat gain in the winter, and cooling in the summer. Passive solar water heating will reduce the utilities expense to the tenants and to the non-profit owner.  Under study at this time is a combined solar thermal heating and water heating system.   

Existing hardwood floors will be restored, low-E paints and cabinets will be utilized as well as the above energy saving treatments.

Supportive services to the five efficiency units for the long term homeless will be provided by Northwestern Mental Health Center, Inc.  Rental Assistance Vouchers for the five homeless units will be administered by Crookston Housing & Economic Development Authority. (Includes one-year of funding through Minnesota Housing, and five more years funded through McKinney-Vento SHP “Shelter plus Care.”  The goal of permanent supportive housing is to transition people into gainful employment and eventually off the housing voucher programs.  Northwestern Mental Health Center will provide the case management to reach this goal with each homeless individual or couple.  Property Management will be supplied by D.W. Jones Management, Inc. and the owner, Prairie Skyline Foundation, Inc., will all work together as covered under a Memorandum of Understanding.

The budget includes a live in caretaker $500 per month, (he/she pays own rent,) and other unique operating costs of permanent supportive housing.  The net operating income provides a small cash flow of about $1200 per month. A detailed cash-flow analysis for 10 years  and a breakdown of total development costs are available on request. 
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