A historic renovation has positioned the SPA Apartments to serve its vulnerable residents for decades to come.

The Clifton Springs, N.Y., landmark needed major work after anchoring the village Main Street for 120 long years. Originally a sanitarium and water-cure center for visitors seeking the healing powers of the area’s sulfur springs, the brick building is soaked in history. The sanitarium, in fact, became known as the birthplace of occupational therapy. The building also became a popular leisure destination for socialites.

It served as a medical and wellness facility until it was converted into senior housing in 1974. However, after four decades of serving residents, incurring massive deferred maintenance, and holding little capital, the building was in desperate need of renovation. The town jewel had lost its shine.

Although the property was not for sale, officials with Rochester’s Cornerstone Group and Home Leasing recognized the building needed to be rescued. They tracked down the building’s owners and convinced them to sell the facility, part of the state’s Mitchell-Lama housing portfolio.

The prior owners, who were in their 70s, hadn’t visited the apartments in 40 years, according to Roger Brandt, president of Rochester’s Cornerstone Group.

The new development team worked with the New York State Housing Finance Agency to restructure the building’s financing in order to do the needed repairs. It decoupled the Department of Housing and Urban Development Sec. 236 mortgage and installed a new rent-subsidy stream with 108 project-based rental assistance vouchers through the Rental Assistance Demonstration program. As a result, more than 40 residents had their rents decreased.

“It has meant so much to the town,” Brandt says. “The residents have said, ‘We're so thankful because it wasn't a pleasant place to live before.’ Now, they have a strong sense of community.”

The 109-unit SPA Apartments features studios and one- and two-bedroom units, with 89 units serving residents earning no more than 50% of the area median income (AMI) and seven units serving residents earning no more than 60% of the AMI. Ten units go up to 80% of the AMI, and the remaining three are above that level.

The development is connected via two floors to the Clifton Springs Hospital and Clinic, allowing residents to easily visit doctors or patients.

The $15.7 million project initially emphasized safety improvements. Emergency call systems were added to each unit, and fob entry systems were installed at the building entrances. Building modifications were also made to assist disabled residents, a move that will allow more seniors to live independently at SPA Apartments. In addition to unit improvements, common areas were improved, including a rooftop solarium.

SPA Apartments is important to the community as well as to residents, as a key local attraction. The building features a chapel containing a historic glass Louis Comfort Tiffany mosaic depicting The Last Supper. In March, Rochester’s Cornerstone Group agreed to have the mosaic included as part of the Corning Museum of Glass’ exhibit of Tiffany’s glasswork.

Financing for the project included historic and low-income housing tax credit equity from Raymond James Tax Credit Funds.

Project Details

Developers: Rochester’s Cornerstone Group and Home Leasing
Architect: SWBR Architects
Major Funders: Raymond James Tax Credit Funds; Citizens Bank; New York State Homes and Community Renewal/New York State Housing Finance Agency; Village of Clifton Springs; Federal Home Loan Bank of New York; M&T Bank; Department of Housing and Urban Development