Crosley building apartment development shifts focus to workforce housing

Crosley building apartment development shifts focus to workforce housing
Posted at 6:00 AM, Nov 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-18 06:00:02-05

CINCINNATI - The Indianapolis-based developer of the Crosley building project in Camp Washington has shifted its plans to make it more affordable for working-class residents and easier to finance.

Core Redevelopment told the Camp Washington Business Association Wednesday that it brought in a partner, TWG Companies of Indianapolis, to pursue low-income housing tax credits as a financing tool.

“I tried nine ways to Sunday to finance this project on our own,” said Eric Seal, a developer with Core Redevelopment. “We believe in the market. I couldn’t get banks to believe that it’s there yet.”

The Crosley project is one of several that could get a jump start from this week's news that Fifth Third Bancorp will increase its Community Reinvestment Act lending by about 10 percent to $30 billion.

RELATED: Fifth Third Bank to announce massive investment in low-income communities.

Both companies are already active in the Cincinnati housing market.

Core Redevelopment converted the former SCPA building in Pendleton to a 142-unit apartment building, with rents starting at $800 a month. TWG converted the former Sands Montessori building in the West End to 65 affordable apartments, with rents starting at less than $300 a month.

Seal has been trying to redevelop the iconic Crosley building since 2014, when Core Redevelopment partnered with Northern Kentucky developer David Hosea to gain control of the property. It bought out Hosea in August and sold a 51 percent stake in the project to TWG a few months ago, Seal said. Hamilton County records show Crosley Renaissance LLC paid $1 million to gain full control of the building on Aug. 30.

Its pockmarked facade and peeling paint belies the historical significance of the former headquarters of Crosley Radio Corp. at 1333 Arlington Street. It was built in 1928 and was designed by the famous Cincinnati architectural firm Samuel Hannaford and Sons, the architect for City Hall, Music Hall and the Cincinnati Observatory building in Mt Lookout.

The Crosley building was the manufacturing headquarters of Powel Crosley Jr., a former Cincinnati Reds owner whose entrepreneurial innovations advanced the industries of automobiles, refrigerators, turntables and radios. The "Nation's Station," WLW-AM 700, exists today because Crosley did 100 years ago.

Seal said the city is willing to invest “pretty significant” property tax incentives in the project, as long as the neighborhood supports it.

“This is a building they always ask about. It’s important to the city,” Seal said. But “it’s all contingent on you guys saying this is a project we want done.”

The shift to affordable housing means some changes for the Crosley project, originally conceived as a $45 million development with up to 238 market-rate units that would seek rents similar to those now being paid in Over-the-Rhine.

The revised plan calls for 180 units and more parking, so each apartment has at least one off-street space. Eighty percent of the units will be affordable, targeted to renters who earn no more than 60 percent of the area’s median income.

The new Crosley project will offer a mix of apartment sizes -- from studio to three bedroom -- and rents ranging from $654 to $910 for tax-credit supported affordable units.

“These are working families, single moms, students, the aging baby boomer generation,” said TWG Development Director Andrea Kent. “Really it’s a wide variety of tenants earning anywhere from like $25,000 to $35,000.”

Seal told Camp Washington business leaders that he’s trying to buy roughly four acres adjacent to the Crosley building that would enable more housing and stronger connections to the nearby American Sign Museum and Machine Flats, a loft-style apartment building at 3301 Colerain Ave. Kent said the project is trying to get the Sign Museum to develop history-inspired signage for the property.

The business group gave no formal endorsement to the new Crosley project, but a retail consultant who is working on a new marketing plan for the neighborhood said it would help Camp Washington’s business district attract young workers who can’t afford Downtown’s high rents but want to walk or bike to work.

“You are a work force community and that is a tremendous strength,” said Kathleen Norris, a principal at UrbanFastForward, a real estate firm specializing in urban-redevelopment projects.

“Their affordable project is right in your sweet spot,” Norris said. “It’s going to enable you to attract more of the population that your businesses frankly need.”