By Marc Laroque
Providence Business News
Milton Baxter is director of real estate and general counsel for ONE Neighborhood Builders, the Providence-based nonprofit established in 1988 that’s devoted to developing more affordable housing, which it’s now doing with several ongoing construction projects and proposals throughout Rhode Island.
That includes small, cost-efficient modular homes in Olneyville, and low-cost apartments for seniors that it wants to build in a Cumberland church. On top of its low-income home construction efforts, the group recently announced the creation of a new $500,000 community-led loan fund for Central Providence to help local small businesses.
PBN: What is “The Avenue” and where does that project stand?
BAXTER: The Avenue is a proposed 39-unit new construction building on Atwells Avenue that is being combined with the rehabilitation of 46 units of existing LIHTC [Low-Income Housing Tax Credit] affordable housing in the Elmwood neighborhood of Providence. We hope to break ground on the new construction before the end of 2022.
The new construction building will be a mixed-use and mixed-income building with ground level retail space and offering affordable rental housing to households earning from 30% of AMI [area median income] along with market-rate units. The Elmwood component of the project will allow for the moderate rehabilitation and capital improvements of the existing units that are already in our portfolio.
We have applied for final plan approval from the city of Providence for the new construction and have received funding awards from the Building Homes Rhode Island program. We have additional funding applications pending with [the] R.I. Housing [and Mortgage Finance Corp.].
PBN: Your organization has been doing a lot recently in the Olneyville area of Providence, including the Bowdoin Street Rowhouse modular homes. What makes this project significant and what’s the status of the project?
BAXTER: The Bowdoin Street project is an eight-unit modular construction affordable housing development that will serve households earning up to 80% of the area median income. The first significant element of this development is the redevelopment of formerly vacant and blighted lots, which will serve to improve the neighborhood. Since the start of construction of our development, we have seen additional new construction and rehabilitation of other nearby properties.
Secondly, we used modular construction for this development, which has reduced the overall total development costs and the time to complete construction. We believe that is the first income-restricted multifamily development in Rhode Island that used modular construction and we hope to be able to use the lessons learned from this development to more efficiently construct affordable housing going forward. Construction will be completed by the end of July and lease-up of the units will begin Aug. 1.