Pioneering Green Mixed-Income Project Underway in St. Louis

St. Louis--Construction has commenced on Arlington Grove in St. Louis, and the 112-unit mixed-income residential redevelopment may spark a green trend in the creation of properties that unite low-income and market-rate units under one roof.

St. Louis–Construction has commenced on Arlington Grove in St. Louis, and the 112-unit mixed-income residential redevelopment may very well become the spark that will ignite a green trend in the creation of properties that unite low-income and market-rate units under one roof.

Officials of the City of St. Louis, the Associated General Contractors of St. Louis, the St. Louis Housing Authority and the neighborhood’s anchor, Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist Church, are the major proponents backing Arlington Grove, which will sprout up at the intersection of Dr. Martin Luther King Drive and Burd Avenue.

The project will not only play a key role in revitalizing the neglected neighborhood, it will help transform the community with the creation of housing for renters of diverse incomes. Arlington Grove will offer Low Income Housing Tax Credit apartments for households earning 60 percent of the area median income, federal HOME grant-sponsored apartments, public housing residences and units that will be rented at market rates. The property will also bring 5,000 square feet of retail that will help stimulate the local economy and create new jobs.

McCormack Baron Salazar is the developer of Arlington Grove, and KAI Design & Build is the architect behind the project, which will consist of 91 newly constructed garden apartments and townhouses and 21 semi-detached units that will be created through the rehabilitation of the historic Arlington Elementary School. Arlington Grove will also bring a new aesthetic to the neighborhood and serve as a model for the development of green mixed-income communities. The apartment complex’s design adheres to the Green Communities Criteria of Enterprise Green Communities–an organization that provides financing and expertise for developers to build and rehabilitate energy efficient homes–making it the very first mixed-income project in the State of Missouri to meet the organization’s green standards, as well as one of the first in the nation.

“Meeting EGC requirements indicates a high level of care in the design and operation of a property from beginning to end,” Nathan Rauh, housing studio leader for KAI, tells MHN. “Investing in green technologies and energy efficiency comes from an owner who is going to hold the property and take good care of it.”

Among the property’s many green elements that meet EGC’s qualifications is the use of photovoltaic panels that will supply approximately 10 percent of the rental community’s energy needs. Additionally, highly reflective roof shingles and pervious paving will help decrease the heat-island effect. On the interior, the residences will contain water-conserving and Energy Star-rated appliances and fixtures. Arlington Grove’s commitment to environmental friendliness also extends to the very development of the building, including the use of water management techniques during construction and the recycling of content materials.

“A more efficient building will ultimately result in lower energy costs from month to month for residences, and from an owner’s perspective, it makes the project that much more attractive in the marketplace,” Rauh says.

For quite a few years during the emergence of the green trend in multifamily development, many developers, particularly those behind affordable housing projects with tight budgets, shied away from making the initial investment in energy efficient design components. Now, an increasing number of builders see the advantage of spending a little more money upfront in order to reap a bevy of benefits not too far down the road.

“Different green requirements are becoming more and more standard,” he notes. “The EGC requirements have been amended by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, so those standards have been attached to many more projects. I compare the green evolution to the 1990s when the Americans with Disabilities Act came into play and there were adjustments to the design and operation of multifamily properties; now it’s just something that we do. I think green certification is going to be the same way. We’ll start getting more projects that meet the requirements and it will become part of the standard chorus.”

The evidence is clear, even in affordable housing. The total is on the rise for new multifamily properties being developed to adhere to EGC’s standards, and for those that qualify for certification through the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED rating system. “Everyone deserves to live in a home that is safe, healthy, comfortable and durable,” Ashley Katz, communications manager with USGBC, tells MHN. “And out of our growing number of homes participating in the LEED rating system, roughly 44 percent are affordable housing projects, and that number continues to grow.”

While ground has already broken on Arlington Grove, the apartment project will break ground again–as a trailblazing EGC endeavor–when its doors open in 2012.