Taylor Dabney

Baker Senior Apartments is the adaptive reuse of a historic school building to create a 50-unit apartment community for seniors in Richmond, Virginia. Originally constructed in 1939 to replace the city’s first school for African-American students, Baker School housed academic programs through the early 2000s before being closed and transferred to the Richmond Redevelopment & Housing Authority (RRHA).

Enterprise Community Development worked with RRHA to acquire the property and transform the building into needed affordable housing. Individual classrooms were converted into large one-bedroom units, many of which featured built-in closets and cupboards that have been incorporated into the bedrooms as well as a large chalkboard in the new living rooms or kitchens.

The homes, which target seniors earning no more than 50% and 60% of the area median income, are fitted with Universal Design features, ensuring that residents can age in place. The cafeteria and gymnasium retain their common purposes, now home to a large common room with a catering kitchen, laundry facilities, a program office, a business center and café, and a fitness center.

Taylor Dabney

The development marks the completion of a three-phase project to rehouse seniors from the aging Frederic Fay Towers public housing property under the Rental Assistance Demonstration program. It’s also the site of the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which supports the nutritional needs of low-income seniors by providing a monthly box of healthy food items to supplement their diets.

This was a long time coming for residents, says Shelynda Brown, vice president of real estate development at Enterprise, noting that other Fay Towers residents had moved as part of the earlier phases. “There’s more space for programming and connectivity with fellow residents,” she says.

Financing for the $15.8 million project included 4% low-income housing tax credits as well as state and federal historic tax credits.