Last Updated: Apr 5th, 2016 - 14:58:37

Kippax Place to get a major facelift
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Apr 24, 2015, 11:36

CAITLIN DAVIS / STAFF PHOTO The Kippax Place apartments are set to get a major facelift.
HOPEWELL — In the coming months, the Hopewell Redevelopment and Housing Authority will begin finalizing plans to start tackling a revitalization of another housing unit in the city, Kippax Place. The project will take almost two years to complete and will offer its residents a new, energy-efficient apartment. 

Steven Benham, executive director of the HRHA, said the estimated $12.8 million project, is still in the process of getting the financing secured. Of that $12.8 million, roughly $7 to $8 million will be low income housing tax credits with the rest, he said, being a variety of other funding sources. 

HRHA will also partner again with Community Housing Partners, CHP, for the project and will begin transferring the property on, or about, July 1. 

This is the second major renovation project for the housing authority. Last year, and into the beginning of this year, the HRHA tackled one of the oldest properties in the city, Langston Park, now The Summit. 

The $9.5 million project took the community from 30 to 56 units, with 30 being project based section 8 housing and the other 26 units at market rate. The project also gave the community a complete overhaul, with a new community center and new landscaping work. 

“We’re doing a lot of preliminary work now, some due diligence kind of work,” Benham said of Kippax Place. “Checking the physical structure, what is in the most need of repair and renovation.” 

Unlike The Summit, Kippax Place will not be expanded, with all 100 units staying in tact. Benham said the apartments will also stay as “100 percent” project based section 8 housing. This, he said, was mostly due to the complex always staying at, or near, capacity. 

“One of the provisions of RAD [rental assistance demonstration] is that 100 percent of the people in that building have the right to return,” he said. “And so given that and since we weren’t adding new units to that building that means, if the building is 100 percent occupied, that means all those people have the right to return to that building, and so there’s no opportunity for market rate people to move in.” 

The current 106 residents at Kippax Place will also have minimal relocation during the renovations. Due to the high occupancy, Benham said, there will be initial relocation to empty apartments to be able to get the ball rolling on the construction work. 

“Our plan now is that we need about 14 units available in order to start the actual renovation,” he said. “Another public housing unit is a potential but we’re looking at a variety of housing opportunities as with The Summit, we moved people into Twin Rivers and so I think we’re looking at all of the housing options that are in the city of Hopewell as a possible relocation.” 

As for the planned renovations to the building, which are also still be finalized, there are two “big ticket items,” Benham said. The first being the elevator system in the building and the second being the HVAC system, both of which Benham said, have had significant maintenance issues for years. 

“There’s going to be a complete gutting of the interior of the building,” he said. Benham added that the exterior of the building will mostly stay the same. “So all of the things that we see now will basically be torn down and put back up.” 

Since Benham came on board with the housing authority almost six years ago,  the elevator system has been in need of constant maintenance. With the upcoming renovations, he said replacing that in the building will be a “tremendous” help for the residents.  As for the HVAC system, Benham said it has just outlived its life.

“At the time the HVAC system was adequate for the building when it was built,” he said, with Kippax Place being constructed in 1973. “But the technology around heating and ventilation has improved so much that we’re able to get rid of that single system that basically heats and air conditions the entire building to something a little more modern and appropriate. The energy savings is just going to be phenomenal in that building.” 

There are also other improvements to the building that will help curb some of the energy efficiency issues. One being, Benham said, is that the building is porous. He said many years ago, in an attempt to create more energy efficient buildings, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, HUD, installed insulation between an interior wall and an exterior wall. 

Benham said the original design of the building was to have the water weep off the sides. 

“When water hits the building, depending on which side it hits the building from, the building’s original design, was that water would come down inside of that interior brick and would weep, weep through little openings to the outside, so the water would never actually go into the building,” he said.  When the insulation was installed, Benham said, it blocked the weep holes in the building and water now goes into the interior of the building. 

Another upgrade to the building also created problems, Benham said. Many years ago, the windows were replaced and gaps were left. He said many attempts have been made to caulk the gaps and put in molding, but noting has held. 

Benham said if there is a rain, northerly rain, assisted by wind, he said water will enter the building through the gaps in the windows. 

With the ever growing list of constant list of repairs and upkeep to Kippax Place, Benham said the housing authority has lost thousands. 

“Overall one of the other reasons that we really needed to reposition Kippax as a piece of real estate is that it was losing about $90,000 a year when you look at the revenue that we get from that building and the overall expenses that it takes to run that building,” he said. “We’re losing about $90,000 a year.” 

To help stop the financial bleeding, Benham said HRHA has tried to reduce services at the building, closely monitor the utilities, and reduce staff. He said the cost has been brought down quite a bit but it has not been enough. 

At this time, Benham said, the financing is getting secured for the project and once that is secured, the property will be transferred and then work will begin on Kippax. He anticipates anywhere from 18 months to two years on the project. 

Though the work has not yet begun on the building, Benham continues to look at the years ahead on the redevelopment of all the public housing units in the city. Benham said after Kippax Place, the next property in line is Thomas Rolfe Court. Thomas Rolfe, built in 1953, with additional units being added in 1962 for a total of 136, was classified, in a report generated in March of 2012, as being in “poor” condition. 

To tackle that project, Benham said, the HRHA is looking at securing financing through choice neighborhood grants. These grants, he said, takes a look not only at the public housing community but the areas in and around the community. 

“So we will be looking to study the Thomas Rolfe area to see what kind of improvements we could make to the public housing community, the surrounding community, how does it impact schools, is there transportation issues that we need to be able to address,” he said. “We would probably even look at things like are there adequate supermarkets and things of that nature that impact the quality of life.” 

Benham said the choice neighborhood planning grant becomes available in December of this year. He said the HRHA will be working with the city to apply for the grant. 

Another housing community that the HRHA is also looking at closely is Davisville, built in 1941. Davisville is currently located close to the industrial hub of the city, and Benham said a relocation of the property is strongly being considered. 

“There are some discussion about is there a better place for Davisville,” he said. “We recognize that the city of Hopewell land is at a premium and so I think our board, I think our city…there has always been this desire to find a more suitable location for Davisville to get it away from so much industry. It’s just that we recognize that’s just going to take a little more planning but we’ve got some things in mind.” 

Outside of its own properties, Benham said, the HRHA is taking a closer look at all the housing in the city of Hopewell and has a desire to become a strong development partner to revitalize some of the housing stock. 

“We’d like to think that we can play a role,” Benham said of redeveloping some of the substandard housing in the city. “And long term our vision is to really be a bigger player in the entire Tri-Cities and the housing that impacts the entire Tri-Cities.” 

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