ST. LOUIS—By making its units accessible and usable to all residents regardless of any physical limitations they may have, the 6 North development here is being cited as a model for other urban projects.
Developed by McCormack Baron Salazar (MBS), the 80-unit property employed universal design (UD) on 100 percent of its units. UD is an approach to developing housing that is fully accessible to all residents, regardless of any physical impairments they may have. 6 North uses about 20 UD features, such as wheelchair-friendly entries with elevator access, roll-in showers, and kitchen islands with adjustable-height countertops.
Calling UD “the wave of the future,” MBS Senior Vice President Jack Hambene said the construction strategy’s use will spread as the U.S. population continues to age. “Europe is farther alone in this [demographic trend], so a lot of [UD] products come from there,” said Hambene.
6 North was completed in January 2005 and fully leased by May of that year. Thirty of the project’s units—a mix of one- and two-bedroom apartments—are restricted to households earning no more than 60 percent of the area median income (AMI), five are restricted to households at 50 percent of AMI, and the remainder are market-rate.
Rents for the affordable apartments range from $474 for a one-bedroom unit to $756 for a two-bedroom. The market-rate units *ent for $685 and $1,100 for one- and two-bedroom units, respectively.
Located on a blighted block between St. Louis’ mid-town and Central East End sections, 6 North is expected by its developers to be a catalyst for further redevelopment in the city’s center. The building includes a fitness center and a coffee shop with wireless access. Also, three of the units are live/work units, with space for small commercial enterprises and separate entrances for the residential and commercial portions of the units. The residents have easy access to nearby urban amenities such as shopping, universities, parks, museums, and public transportation.
MBS did marketing outreach to the local disabled community to raise awareness of the property, but it did not market it primarily as a facility for the disabled or as a UD site. “We always view this as expanding the market,” said Hambene, noting that the point of UD is to make the units usable by anyone and not any specific group.
Financing for the $12.9 million development relied heavily on U.S. Bank Community Development Corp., which contributed $5 million in equity for the project’s 9 percent federal low-income housing tax credits and state housing tax credits, as well as providing a first mortgage of almost $4 million and a $1.3 million loan to the project. Additional financing included a $1.5 million Neighborhood Initiatives Loan from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Already the recipient of an award for program excellence from the National Council of State Housing Agencies and the subject of an upcoming Urban Land Institute case study, 6 North continues to host visits from national and regional groups interested in UD concepts.
Hambene praised the help MBS received from local politicians and agencies. Others he worked with to bring the project to fruition included the Starkloff Disability Institute, which has long been an advocate of creating housing for the disabled that looks less institutional and more like regular housing, and U.S. Sen.*Christopher Bond, (R-Mo.), who helped bring in the HUD funding.