July 20, 2020
Community Housing Partners (CHP) has a track record of turning its apartment buildings into vibrant, sustainable communities, but the renovations at J. Van Story Branch Apartments in Baltimore, Maryland have been ambitious even by CHP’s standards. Now that the development team is nearing the finish line, the extent of the community transformation is already taking shape.
“We are proud of the work that we have done at J. Van Story Branch Apartments,” said Samantha Brown, Vice President of Development at CHP. “Not only is this CHP’s largest real estate development project, it’s also an example of us working with community and business partners to deliver a high-quality product for the residents living there. We’re improving the quality of life of our residents while expanding our partnerships in Baltimore and the surrounding region.”
Situated in the city’s Charles North neighborhood, the 20-story, 350-unit apartment building opened in 1972. Managed by the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC) for more than 45 years, J. Van Story Branch Apartments serves Baltimore’s senior and non-elderly disabled populations. In late 2018, CHP closed on financing for the high-rise building and began a $72 million Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) conversion with the support of Baltimore-based project partners Moseley Architects and Southway Builders.
Since then, the development team has reached some important milestones along the way.
“As of July 1, we have completed 83% of the renovations on the building, and 186 residents have already moved into their permanent homes,” said Pamela Wheeler, Development Associate. “All the apartments will be finished before Thanksgiving, and we will finish the entire building by the end of 2020.”
The upgrades to the apartments included new doors, flooring, baths, and kitchens with Energy Star appliances. Residents moved into temporary apartments elsewhere in the building while Southway Builders performed renovations. While some residents moved back to their original apartments, many preferred to only move once into a new unit and were able to do so.
There are just over 200 residents living at J. Van Story Branch Apartments today, but the building will ultimately have 350 newly renovated apartments. “We have already had a couple of new residents move into the building for the first time,” Wheeler added.
The renovations involve every aspect of the building. The roof has been replaced, and the building’s new mechanical systems, including HVAC and water heating, are up and running. A fourth elevator will soon join the building’s original three, which have now been modernized, and a new security system recently went live. The building’s common spaces are also getting a facelift, including the community rooms, lobby, hallways, entrances, and outdoor areas. So much of this work has already been completed that CHP’s Property Management and Resident Services staff were able to move into their new offices on the first floor earlier this month. New laundry rooms on each floor will be available for residents in the coming months.
“While we have nearly finished remodeling most of the common areas, it is still up in the air when these will be open to the public,” said Milo Pfeffer, Development Associate. (Read more about how CHP is ranked among the top 50 affordable housing developers in the United States.)
In March, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the day-to-day routines of construction crews and residents at the apartment building, just like at other construction sites around the country. But the renovations have continued with minimal delays thanks to new safety protocols and personal protective equipment (PPE).
“The Southway Builders crews are maintaining social distances, wearing masks and other PPE, completing daily health screenings, and undergoing temperature checks to make sure that everyone is safe,” Pfeffer explained.
He added that the Resident Services team has placed stickers and tape on the floor around the building so that residents see how far apart they must be for social distancing, including at the hospitality suite for those impacted by construction. The residents at J. Van Story Branch Apartments, like those across CHP’s six-state portfolio, have also received regular communication about the steps CHP has taken to keep the community healthy and safe.
While J. Van Story Branch Apartments is CHP’s largest real estate development to date, it is not CHP’s first in Baltimore. In 2017, CHP and Southway Builders invested $21.6 million in redeveloping Primrose Place Apartments in southwest Baltimore. These renovations were also part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s RAD program and upgraded 125 apartments for senior and non-elderly disabled residents.
When construction on J. Van Story Branch Apartments concludes at the end of the year, CHP will have not only completed its second major redevelopment project in Baltimore but also expanded its partnerships in Maryland. The redevelopment is referenced in the strategic plan for the Central Baltimore Partnership, which supports and invests in 10 neighborhoods in the heart of the Baltimore City, and will include a health suite on the first floor designed in partnership with Johns Hopkins University, whose central campus is only a mile north of J. Van Story Branch Apartments.
“We are excited for what the future holds for CHP, our partners, and our residents in Baltimore and the surrounding area,” Brown said.