CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA—In June 2008, the Cedar River crested to its highest level in the city's history, damaging or destroying more than 5,000 homes and displacing 18,000 residents.
Early on after the devastating flooding, the city held three open houses to discuss flood mitigation and what and how they were going to rebuild. Rob McCready, co-president of Midwest affordable housing developer MetroPlains, LLC, attended all three of those sessions.
One of the housing needs discovered was for seniors, so MetroPlains and Enterprise Community Investment, Inc., teamed up to create the 45-unit Cedar Crest Apartments, which broke ground in February.
McCready says the challenge was to get the housing built as quickly as possible for the sake of the city and the displaced residents. MetroPlains had wanted to start construction in summer 2009, but because of the problems with the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) investment industry, the project took longer to get off the ground than expected.
“Talking with residents who had just lost their homes had an impact on my desire to succeed and get this built,” says McCready. “[The residents] were very motivational to keep the focus on getting the project developed despite the problems and delays.”
What helped to move the $8.8 million development forward was $2.24 million in Tax Credit Assistance Program funds from the Iowa Finance Authority. Other fi- nancing includes $3.84 million in LIHTC equity investment from Enterprise, a first mortgage of $355,000 from Blackridge Bank, $900,000 in HOME funds from the Iowa Department of Economic Development, $1.25 million in Community Development Block Grant disaster relief funds from the city of Cedar Rapids, and $220,000 in deferred developer fees.
The affordable development—which is located on a hill just west of the hardhit Time Check neighborhood and 50 feet above where the floodwaters stopped— will feature a redevelopment of a threestory historic farmhouse into community space for the residents, as well as newly constructed apartments, which will integrate the exterior design and the interior character of the farmhouse.
“Retaining that [farmhouse] is a green idea,” says Erin Anderson, assistant project manager at MetroPlains. And that's not the only green element.
Cedar Crest is expected to be energy efficient with a Home Energy Rating System index of 80 or better. It also will have water-saving appliances, faucets, and fixtures, as well as low VOC paints and sealants, and green floor coverings.
Creating healthier homes will be a priority as well. For instance, the developer is using conventional hot water heaters in rooms with drains or catch pans and non-water-sensitive flooring to prevent mold.
The development also will be tailormade for the seniors.
“Cedar Rapids is underserved by quality seniors housing,” says Philip Porter, vice president of tax syndication for Enterprise. “We've got a lot of confidence that there will be a lot of demand for this housing.”
The apartments will be situated atop an underground parking garage so residents can take the elevator directly to their floors. It also will include universal design standards to aid the seniors.