A 139-unit building serving seniors and the disabled in downtown Des Moines, Iowa, has been given a much-needed face-lift.

Considered housing of the last resort and facing a class-action lawsuit regarding bedbugs, Ligutti Tower had not been updated in nearly 30 years when it was acquired by Newbury Living and Phoenix Family Housing.

The development team’s goal was to provide existing and new residents with a safe and modernized environment that would improve their health and welfare. It also wanted to connect the building with the outside community, since the apartments sit on top of a parking garage.

“It never really was its own community. In addition to bringing the finishes up-to-date, we wanted to give it more of its own common space. We wanted to activate the street a little more and give the building more presence,” says Frank Levy, president of Newbury Living.

To do that, the development team constructed space for a service coordinator, a meeting room with views, and a gym. It installed larger signage to make the entry easier to find, and the inside lobby is now welcoming for residents and visitors. The team also revamped a large plaza to make it more usable for residents by adding shade and wind protection and obtained rights to use city-owned land on the street level for a sitting area for residents.

In addition, Newbury Living and Phoenix Family Housing have been aggressive in treating the bedbug problem and use specially trained dogs to inspect the apartments monthly.

Ligutti Tower offers comprehensive supportive services, including nutrition classes and fitness programs, for its residents. In addition to serving seniors 62 and older, 35 units are targeted for residents with physical, mental, or developmental issues. Residents pay no more than 30% of their income for rent.

In the year Ligutti Tower was awarded low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs), the Iowa Finance Authority had a new scoring criteria that rewarded points for installing a wireless emergency call system to enhance safety for residents. What the development team ultimately came up with was to offer free Wi-Fi in the building and issue residents iPads.

These resources, which many residents wouldn't able to afford on their own, can help residents stay in contact with family and use FaceTime to communicate with staff if they have a problem. An app allows residents to dial 911 using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology instead of a landline, which many people might not have.

“These people are living independently. We wanted to give them a system that would be very utilitarian and desirable and cover the rare cases when there’s an emergency,” says Levy.

The $18.2 million preservation project, which was completed in February, was financed with LIHTC equity through National Equity Fund, Enterprise Zone credits sold through National Funding, and a Federal Housing Administration Sec. 221(d)(4) loan by Lancaster Pollard.