Q&A with NDR Group’s Charlie DePasquale

NDR Executive Vice President Charlie DePasquale talks to MHN about filling a need in a community, building green and giving back to the tax base all in one shot.

The NDR Group, formerly the New Rochelle Neighborhood Revitalization Corporation, is a not-for-profit company committed to the preservation and revitalization of neighborhoods in need of affordable housing for families and senior citizens. NDR’s most recent project in New Rochelle, N.Y.—the West End Affordable Housing Development—combines the state-of-the-art Garito Manor senior building with the Town Homes at West Way, 25 affordable duplexes for first-time homebuyers. NDR Executive Vice President Charlie DePasquale talks to MHN about filling a need in a community, building green and giving back to the tax base all in one shot.

MHN: Your latest project is two-fold, with the Townhouses at West Way alongside the Garito Manor senior building. Can you tell us about this development?

DePasquale: It’s a master-planned development of intergenerational housing. That includes single-family townhomes for first-time homebuyers—there are 25 that have been developed—and on the same site is a 102-unit independent senior building with services. That’s the intergenerational aspect: homeownership for first-time homebuyer families and rental senior housing with services.

Planning for this went back as far as the mid-1990s, when a concept study was undertaken, and it was determined that the best use of the site was through an urban-renewal action at the time. It was a deteriorated, dilapidated, crime-ridden and run-down block in the city’s West End of New Rochelle, so it was determined that urban renewal would be the best way to go. We developed design concepts, concept plans, and came up with a four-acre urban-renewal area where this first phase … would be constructed.

In 2007 we sold all 25 townhomes to first-time homebuyers, five of which came directly from the urban-renewal site in that redevelopment block. And then in 2009 we opened our 102-unit senior citizen building. The development has completely revitalized the entire community. One result is that other owners in the neighborhood have undertaken rehabilitation of their own properties. We’ve stemmed the economic and social degradation of the neighborhood by this 2.5-acre master-planned development opening up. And we’ve been able to provide affordable housing to families as first-time homebuyers who were previously renters and very affordable senior housing with services; our pricing is half the price of the market-rate housing that’s out there for senior citizens 62 and over.

MHN:How are you able to give back to the tax base?

DePasquale: I guess the perfect example is what’s now known as our Parkside Place apartments. Back in the mid-1980s we purchased from the New Rochelle Housing Authority a dilapidated 180-unit development that was in tax arrears with the City of New Rochelle, and through a creative-financing mechanism we were able to purchase this from the Housing Authority, repay the City the lost taxes that it wasn’t getting, and renovate through a 221(d)(4) HUD program all 180 units to turn a dilapidated development into a brand new thriving development of low-income rentals. We were able to meet our pilot payments—payment in lieu of taxes annually—as well as, by the terms of the deal, provide surplus cash payments to the City of New Rochelle. So in that sense, we not only paid taxes but we gave back in addition to taxes surplus cash to the City of New Rochelle over time.

We’re a not-for-profit corporation. However, anything we do does pay full taxes to the city or community we’re in. We don’t get any tax abatements or tax write-offs. If we do a tax-exempt bond deal with tax credits, we will establish a negotiated payment in lieu of taxes; but on the other developments we pay full tax, and by that we give back to the tax base by providing a development that in most cases—I think, in all cases—pays back to the municipality or the town more tax dollars than they were getting from the use that was there prior.

MHN:How do you make the inter-generation connection work?

DePasquale: I’ll use two examples. One of them is our Lawn Avenue Town Homes development. There we built 10 two-family homes. Our organization took a look at the greatest need in affordable housing: families who are renting and would like to be owners but can’t afford it, as well as senior citizens who are looking for decent rental housing and are stuck in some cases in their walk-up apartments. The three-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath townhome went to the first-time homebuyer, but to assist them financially we also built a ground-floor apartment that is restricted to senior citizens 62 and over.

On a larger scale, in our West End developments, where we have 25 single-family townhomes in a clustered master-planned development along with a separate 102-unit seven-story senior building … based on the design we were able to combine two different groups together that work in a very compatible manner.

MHN:What is the key to bringing design and energy efficiency to affordable housing? Where do you see this trend heading in the future?

DePasquale: There’s no question those two things go hand in hand. Anything NDR will do in the future is going to be green. When we start from the design concept all the way through to design planning, we will participate with NYSERDA programs and with the HUD program for energy efficiency. We did do that with our senior building with services in the West End. It is a green building—not LEED certified, but it is a green building, and we do have geo-thermal wells that provide well water into the building for the heating and cooling system. The building envelope is an energy-efficient envelope, and this was our first foray into environmental design and construction. We’ve also found that we’re saving in a big way on our utility costs, which also is helping us to operate the facility.

So I think that affordable housing and green building are very complementary and compatible, not only for what NDR Group will do, but for affordable housing in the region and in general. And I think that many of the grant providers are also requiring that a building be built to green specifications and standards. We would do it in any event ourselves, but we also follow the lead of the regulatory agencies that provide the funding and the financing.

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