Careful renovation transformed a grim self-storage warehouse surrounded by parking lots in Uptown Pittsburgh into a new community of loft apartments.

Just a mile from downtown, almost 7,000 people work in Uptown, but only 800 people lived in the neighborhood before Mackey Lofts opened its 43 affordable apartments in May.

Since affordable housing developer ACTION-Housing began planning the renovation, another company has redeveloped the Fifth Avenue High School next door into luxury apartments renting for twice as much as Mackey Lofts. ACTION-Housing also has plans under way to build affordable homes on a cluster of nearby vacant lots.

Mackey Lofts includes 10 units of supportive housing carefully designed for people with impairments to their hearing or vision or both, with features like doorbells and telephones that vibrate or flash with strobe lights. Deaf-blind residents can communicate with visitors to the building through a text intercom system based on braille.

Services for residents range from case management and individual and group therapy to financial literacy and career counseling. Four of the property managers have also learned sign language to better communicate with the residents.

“We feel in supportive housing you are going to be dealing with residents over the long haul,” says Jennifer DiNardo, director of real estate affiliates for ACTION-Housing.

The $12 million project was financed with help from low-income housing tax credit equity from National Equity Fund, Inc.

ACTION-Housing also created new courtyard space. Underneath the courtyard are 11 geothermal wells, which will provide 60 percent to 70 percent of the heating and cooling for the building.

Vote for your favorite finalist!