Montana’s Franklin School Apartments Revitalized

Franklin School Apartments, a Great Falls, Mont. affordable multifamily property whose history dates to the early years of the 20th century, has benefited from energy-efficient upgrades, thanks to a financing solution recommended by Columbus, Ohio-based Lancaster Pollard Mortgage Co.

Great Falls, Mont.—Franklin School Apartments, a Great Falls, Mont. affordable multifamily property whose history dates to the early years of the 20th century, has benefited from energy-efficient upgrades, thanks to a financing solution recommended by Columbus, Ohio-based Lancaster Pollard Mortgage Co.

Constructed in 1913 to serve as an elementary school for American-Indian children, and showcasing some of the most distinctive architecture in Great Falls, the building was expanded and converted to affordable apartments in 1990. But the decades and Western Montana’s rugged climate had taken their toll on the Franklin School Apartments, putting the building in physical decline.

The Montana Board of Housing awarded low-income housing tax credit exchange funds to the borrower, Franklin School Apartments LLC, which promised the building could be returned to its former status as quality affordable housing. Franklin School Apartments planned to use the exchange funds, along with construction financing from a local construction firm, for the rehabilitation.

Rehabilitation was crucial to the property’s success, because the temperature extremes of Great Falls result in high energy consumption, making energy efficiency essential for building viability.

One problem remained—the property still needed a commitment for permanent financing. Lancaster Pollard suggested using the Fannie Mae Affordable Housing product to provide permanent financing. The solution worked perfectly, allowing for a fixed-rate, non-recourse loan with a 30-year amortization.

“The project was started in 2010, and was completed in spring 2011,” Jeff Banker, vice president of Lancaster Pollard Mortgage Co., tells MHN.

“There were interior unit upgrades, installation of Energy Star appliances and the addition of new, energy-efficient windows. The HVAC, in addition to other building infrastructure, was upgraded. The exterior received new landscaping, and they put in a new playground.”

Specifically, the $1.4 million in financing ensured the property benefited from the addition of new, more efficient boilers, energy-efficient exterior lights, low-flow  devices, florescent lighting, energy-efficient reflective roof materials, increased insulation and dimmable lights with motion-sensor switches, among other improvements.

Apartment units received new kitchen cabinets, appliances and lighting fixtures, new bathroom tubs, toilets, vanities and mirrors, and improved lighting.

The Great Falls area has benefited from avoiding the need to build new by preserving existing, affordable housing, Banker says. “And given the scope of the work, Franklin School Apartments will continue to provide clean, safe, affordable housing for the foreseeable future,” he adds.

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