Photo of Timothy Fournier, president and CEO of Conifer Realty. Conifer Realty is an Affordable Housing Development Company.
Noah Kalina Timothy Fournier, president and CEO of Conifer Realty

When a multiplex movie theater shuttered its doors in Coram, N.Y., it left a big scar on the local landscape. The giant building stood vacant for a decade and became tagged as a "monument to blight."

While other, nearby communities saw growth in their retail markets, Coram lagged. It wasn't all the theater's fault, but the abandoned building was hard to ignore. Early attempts to redevelop the property all failed, leaving residents to drive by the enormous eyesore day after day, year after year.

Finally, that view is about to change. In May, the troubled 18-acre site will open as a new, mixed-use development featuring 176 units of workforce housing and 13,000 square feet of retail commercial space. "It's going to completely revitalize the hamlet of Coram," says Marianne Garvin, the longtime president and CEO of the Community Development Corp. of Long Island ­(CDCLI). "It's going to provide a downtown center."

Wincoram Commons is the latest development by Conifer Realty, an affordable housing developer based in Rochester, N.Y.

"They're one of the best," says Garvin, who has partnered with Conifer on six projects, including Wincoram. "They share the values we do of wanting to have a very positive impact with our projects."

All affordable housing deals travel a winding road, but Win­coram's path had more curves than most. First, the developers had to manage developing in a wetlands area. Second, they also had to split the large project into two parts—one a 9% low-­income housing tax credit (LIHTC) deal and the other a tax-exempt bond transaction. Both are being done simultaneously to save on construction costs and achieve economies of scale.

The $55.9 million development features one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments. Fifteen percent of the units will serve residents earning between 60% and 90% of the area median income (AMI), with the balance reserved for those earning no more than 60% AMI. "It truly is a workforce housing project," says Andrew I. Crossed, executive vice president and a principal of Conifer.