Developer: Vitus Group, Inc.

Architect: Basis Architecture & Consulting, Inc.

Major Funders: Alliant Capital; PNC Real Estate; Hawaii Housing Finance and Development Corp.; Fannie Mae; and city and county of Honolulu

Banyan Street Manor Apartments is the first acquisition of public housing in Hawaii to be recapitalized under private ownership.

Vitus Group, Inc., partnered with the state to take over a languishing 54-unit complex, where poor conditions rendered 25 percent of the units uninhabitable.

“The challenge of this urban design from the mid-'70s was to make it relevant and a desirable place to live,” says Makani Maeva, director of Vitus Group's Honolulu office.

Rising to the challenge, the firm upgraded the building interiors, added solar hot water and photovoltaic systems, and secured 20-year project-based Sec. 8 contracts on all of the units to ensure their long-term affordability.

In a move that delivers function and whimsy, the firm installed the island's largest living green wall on the four-story building. With little space for landscaping, the team went vertical, installing landscaping on three walls. The move is expected to decrease heat gain by about 10 degrees and reduce traffic noise.

Vitus Group also created an organic rooftop garden, where residents have access to fresh vegetables for free. A landscaping company tends the garden in exchange for 60 percent of its yield, with residents sharing in the rest.

The team also added a management office, which the property lacked, and turned an underutilized loading space into a secure children's play area.

The $15.4 million project was financed with state and federal low-income housing tax credits and other sources.