A 208-unit affordable housing community has undergone a major renovation in Baton Rouge, La.

Renaissance Gateway has undergone a 14-month rehabilitation in Baton Rouge, La.
Renaissance Gateway has undergone a 14-month rehabilitation in Baton Rouge, La.

Renaissance Gateway, previously known as Ardenwood Park Apartments, is comprised of 16 two-story garden-style buildings featuring one-, two-, three-, and four-bedroom apartments. The units serve families earning between 20 and 60 percent of the area median income.

Amenities include a fitness center, computer center, swimming pool, community room/clubhouse, central laundry facility, playground, picnic area, and on-site management.

The $28.1 million project was co-rehabilitated by Renaissance Gateway Associates, an entity of nonprofit Community Development, Inc., (CDI) of Caldwell, Idaho, and 4321 Associates of Metairie, La.

Built in the 1970s, the property was struggling and in need of a major overhaul. The demolition costs exceeded the land value so no one wanted the project, and it had scored a low 17 on its Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) inspection, according to C. Fred Cornforth, head of CDI.

“If this had been a patient in a hospital, it would be like someone being taken off of life support with no hope of survival,” he says.

CDI took over in 2012, and construction began about a year later.

Strong community support from the East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority and others pushed the renovation forward. The team also received assistance from the National Housing Trust (NHT), the Pepper Hamilton law firm, and HUD.

When Cornforth first visited the property, four school buses arrived at the same time, letting out all the children. “This was a neighborhood, and I knew I wanted to keep them together if we could,” he says. “Moms who were friends had arranged their schedules so while one worked during the day, the other watched the kids. At night, they would switch. There were numerous arrangements like this.  It was a neighborhood, a community. Saving the buildings was necessary to save the community that had grown there.”

Layers of financing were involved. WNC provided $10.3 million in low-income housing tax credit equity to help fund the project, which also received financing from America First Credit Union, the city of Baton Rouge, state of Louisiana, and East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority.

The city/parish came through with HOME funds that were merged with Hurricane relief funds from the state and combined with redevelopment authority and NHT loans. Developers also renegotiated a Housing Assistance Payment contract with HUD.

The gut rehabilitation took about 14 months, and families recently moved back to a completely new project.

Connect with Donna Kimura, deputy editor of Affordable Housing Finance, on Twitter @DKimura_AHF.