ROCHESTER, N.Y.—Dorothy Hall was saddened to see Victorian homes abandoned here, their millwork ornaments and front porches falling in ruin.
“It was disappointing to see this beauty taken away,” said Hall, executive director of the Plymouth-Exchange Neighborhood Association. Just south of downtown Rochester, Hall’s neighborhood suffered from declining property values and about 100 abandoned homes and lots.
But a new public housing redevelopment has stopped the spread of blight, according to Hall.
New houses in groups of five or six now fill once-abandoned lots in the Plymouth-Exchange, or “Plex,” neighborhood here. The homes are part of a 144- unit HOPE VI redevelopment of the Kennedy and Olean Townhouses and are split roughly between public housing rentals and rental housing affordable to low-income families.
For decades, long blocks of public housing formed a wall between the Plex and the restored Corn Hill historic district— where single-family homes sell for more than $200,000—to the north. But that changed starting in January 2006, when two developers, Rochester’s Cornerstone Group, Ltd., and Providence Housing Development Corp., opened the first new homes at Plymouth Manor and Carlson Commons. The opening came less than three years after the Rochester Housing Authority won a 2003 HOPE VI grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Over the years, the city built up a portfolio of foreclosed and abandoned homes in the Plex, and it gave 68 scattered lots to Cornerstone to build single-family homes as part of the HOPE VI redevelopment. Rochester has another 32 lots and vacant houses that Cornerstone is now planning to build on in a later development.
Cornerstone finished and leased all 67 new homes and townhomes in Plymouth Manor by July 2006. Just seven months later, workers finished the 77 homes and townhouses in Carlson Commons, about a year ahead of HUD’s five-year deadline. The two phases of homes combine 70 units of new public housing with 74 units of lowincome housing. The project replaced about two-thirds of the original 111 public housing apartments.
Plymouth Manor and Carlson Commons were completed well under budget, with a total development cost of $37 million.
“It’s making a difference,” Hall said. “It is more attractive for the community to have a house sitting on what was an abandoned place.”
Plymouth Manor and Carlson Commons
Developers: Rochester’s Cornerstone Group, Ltd., and Providence Housing Development Corp.
Architect: SWBR Architects
The Richman Group Affordable Housing Corp.
WNC & Associates, Inc.
Rochester Housing Authority
New York State Housing Trust Fund
Federal Home Loan Bank of New York
City of Rochester
Department of Housing and Urban Development