Tuesday, August 28, 2007

But What About the Cap?

In yet another example economic silliness, much is being made about the dispute between Mayor "Dapper Doug" Palmer and Broad Street Bank developer Richard Libbey over the amount of rental units available to lower income renters.

The Mayor wants to hold the line at 20% of the units being less than market rate.

The Developer says the market won't support that ratio and wants 40% of the units made available at the lower rental rate.

The Mayor argues that a larger percentage of people who can afford the higher rents will benefit downtown Trenton with their disposable income spent in local restaurants and businesses.

Mr. Libbey counters that the businesses currently downtown will not attract the disposable dollars of the higher income tenants.

What is not being addressed in this standoff is the question of the income cap for renting apartments in the Broad Street Bank building.

That's right...if you were so inclined to rent and move into one of the apartments with those spectacular views of Mill Hill Park, Downtown Trenton and beyond, you had better not make too much money. The funding provided by the State of New Jersey (specifically the NJ Housing Mortgage and Finance Authority) comes with a restriction that applies even to the "unrestricted" apartments.

Tenants cannot earn more than seven times their rent. That is to say, for a top of the line $1500.00 per month apartment in the Broad Street Bank building, must earn less than $126,000 per year.

So, if we want residents to move into the city who can not only afford to live here but have money to spend supporting local businesses, services and restaurants what is the sense in arguing about how many or how few units are "affordable" on the low end of the rent scale in the Broad Street Bank?

As it stands right now we could have a line of millionaires that stretches from Hopewell to Princeton Junction who all want to live in the Broad Street Bank building (I can dream can't I?) but the rules of the NJHMFA would prohibit them from leasing an apartment there.

Now that makes real sense, doesn't it?!?!?


Tim Razzaq said...

Better late than never?

Kudos to the TDA and Capital City Development corporation for finally stepping up the meet the mandates of their mission statements and, at last, openly and aggressively supporting Trenton's downtown cornerstone project. They are either seeing the light, or the "green", and BOOST asks that we all focus and build upon the smart features of the Broad Street Bank Building. What is smart growth and why does BSBB fit the bill?

Smart Growth is an urban planning and transportation theory that concentrates growth in the center of a city to avoid urban sprawl; and advocates compact, transit-oriented, walkable, bicycle-friendly land use, including neighborhood schools, streets that work for everyone, mixed-use development with a range of housing choices.

Smart Growth values long-range, regional considerations of sustainability over a short-term focus. Its goals are to achieve a unique sense of community and place; expand the range of transportation, employment, and housing choices; equitably distribute the costs and benefits of development preserve and enhance natural and cultural resources; and promote public health. The Broad Street Bank Building does all of this and more.

The Broad Street Bank Building (BSBB) project has been successful in putting theory into practice, as the development is directly adjacent (due east of) to New Jersey capital’s center city business district, putting its future residential and business tenants within easy access to shopping, dining, recreation and arts, education, government, worship, and employment. Consisting of 124 one and two bedroom units and 8 first-floor commercial spaces, BSBB has also doubled the amount of new housing units produced in the City over the past decade within two years of development. Thus, BSBB has increased the range of housing options not just for City residents, but for workers who practice their occupations in the City but have had limited choices of affordable, centrally located, and attractively designed inner-city rentals to justify making Trenton their home. BSBB is a model that can be replicated in New Jerseys other older cities for adaptive re-use of historic infrastructure to accommodate workforce housing. In fact, the developers (Bayville Holdings LLC) are nearing completion of an energy audit that will make the BSBB building the first nationally designated historic building redeveloped into a “green” (LEED-certified) mixed-use multifamily complex. The restoration of the stairwells have already been cited as a ‘benchmark’ for maintaining historic character while meeting current building code requirements - according to the U.S. Department of Interior’s National Park Service web-site.

Long-term regional considerations and socio-economic contexts of this project includes the fact the it is the first major privately funded development project in New Jersey’s capital city’s downtown in recent history, and many view BSBB as the “cornerstone” around which future real estate and economic development activity will take place. In the backdrops of the growing need for affordable and attractive rental spaces for individuals and small families being squeezed out of the home ownership market due to the wide-impact mortgage and credit crisis and the increasing demand for inner-city housing options due to rising fuel prices, increasing tolls, and vehicle inspection policies that make commuting to and from suburban, exurban, and rural locations to their state, county, federal, or private-sector jobs and positions too costly represents, BSBB could not have been better times. And, with great (inter)national attention being given to “global warming” and rising energy consumption, the Building’s sustainable design mechanical systems, energy-star appliances, units modeled around the windows to increase natural lighting, and roof-top terrace “heat island”-reduction strategies have earned this historic site Green Building Tax Credits and BSBB has also served as a spawn for public awareness and community capacity building around green, smart, and sustainable growth policies and practices. BSBB is proving to be a work in progress in that the catalytic nature of its community inclusion in studying environmental economy is still producing forums, discussions, and related education and training for long-term benefits while meeting current demand. Attracting mid- to upper-income earners with disposable incomes is another goal of the project that can benefit the downtown shops, arts centers, and restaurants are an added bonus.

BSBB is located directly on two New Jersey Transit bus stops, a five-minute walk from Trenton Station, around the corner from a taxi stand, has on-site bicycle storage racks, achieved a hard-earned shared parking agreement with the State of New Jersey and the Trenton Parking Authority for its tenants, and is within a short commute to Trenton-Mercer Airport. The Building is also within comfortable walking distance of the New Jersey Capital complex, the Mercer County administration building, Trenton City Hall, the State Library of New Jersey, Mercer County Community and Thomas Edison State Colleges, major hospitals, most state of New Jersey governmental office buildings, and the City’s Waterfront. Walkable features combined with the Building basement exercise room, make it a perfect fit for tenants who have the desire to promote their own personal health and reduce their own “carbon footprint” by walking to and from work, business, study, worship, and recreation sites and using metropolitan multimode transportation to reduce our region’s contribution to the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels and fight against global warming. Again, BSBB can be replicated in other New Jersey and American cities and towns that have near or all of these vital institutional and transportation assets and resources centralized around abandoned or underutilized historic buildings and former industrial sites. Catalytic aspects for abound in light of the 2007 “Restoring Prosperity” report issued by Brookings Institution.

In addition increasing the range of housing options; creating or enhancing a vibrant mix of uses; providing multiple choices to getting around, and walkability (spawning activities at the street level and encouraging personal interaction); Smart Growth principles also include building and developing places and spaces that respects community character, design, and historic features and creates various forms of linkages to existing development plans and takes into consideration future trends as well as implementing a creative mix of financing mechanisms to keep the residential and commercial units within the reach of the local market and – at the same time – creating enough value to warrant higher-income earners consider living in an economically struggling urban environ. BSBB has achieved these mounting, yet important set of rules by:

 Responding to demands by local preservation groups’ desire to saving “Trenton’s First Skyscraper”, Trenton’s largest blighted building, and New Jersey’s #1 most endangered buildings from demolition;

 Earning historic preservation tax credits, green building tax credits, and low-income housing tax credits to keep the units affordable to a mix of income levels;

 Providing the local arts and cultural community with funds for programming and events to help spur a revival of appreciation for life’s more enjoyable pursuits and engagements;

 Encouraging and facilitating community inclusion in the redevelopment process by partnering with a local community building network to bring over 1,000 curiosity and housing seekers into the building for site tours, workshops, and social networking activities – inbuilt human interest and empowerment;

 Prompting key decision-makers to take a closer look at better ways to accommodate existing and future redevelopment by examining the Abandoned Properties Rehabilitation Act, Middle-Income Housing Tax Credits, and citizen inclusion very early in the planning and decision-making processes, an often under recognized, yet vitally essential aspect for redevelopment and psycho-sustainability; and

 Prompting local stakeholders to research, engage, and mobilize around new and emerging tools, strategies and priorities that prepare them for green collar jobs, energy efficiency in their personal and professional lives, sustainable design of buildings and neighborhoods, and building bridges across race, religion, gender, educational, and economic divides to achieve social equity and mutually beneficial outcomes - BOOST’s Green, Smart, & Sustainable Stakeholder Education & Training (GSS-SET).

Broad Street Bank Building has been successful in both implementing smart growth principles through its adaptive reuse of the historic structure into a mix-use, mixed-income, sustainably designed, multifamily, and conveniently located complex while retaining its primary historic features and adding in a number of energy-efficient features. Taking into consideration that this project was wrought with many economic, structural, and socio-political hurdles and challenges, Bayville Holdings LCC has given the City of Trenton, the State of New Jersey, and the American Republic a model example of building in older, struggling, former industrial urban centers that can be both hard-structurally (bricks and mortar) sound, economically viable, and soft-structurally (people) oriented tying together the human, built, and natural environments. BSBB is a smart project, indeed, connecting people to the places and the reasons to be there that count!

Old Mill Hill said...

Better late than never?

Well let's see...

...you spent a great deal of time and energy expounding upon how wonderful and "successful" the Broad Street Bank building redevelopment is.

You chose to ignore the fact that there are still only a handful of tenants in the building.

Wonderful or not, that is hardly a success.

More importantly, the point of the original post was the absurdity of placing an income cap on those who can rent an apartment in this landmark building.

Thanks for the commercial, but no one was arguing against the project. Just the asinine rules imposed by NJ Housing and Mortgage Financing Authority.