Rehab of Historic Affordable Seniors Housing Property in Richmond, Calif.

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Richmond, Calif.--The Carquinez, a 36-unit affordable seniors housing apartment building in Richmond, Calif., has experienced a rebirth with the completion of a $9.5 million rehabilitation program.

Richmond, Calif.–The Carquinez, a 36-unit affordable seniors housing apartment building in Richmond, Calif., has experienced a rebirth with the completion of a $9.5 million rehabilitation program. Owner Bridge Housing Corp. handled the challenge of modernizing a century-old building while respecting its historic status.

Originally developed in 1912, the structure at 400 Harbour Way first opened its doors as The Carquinez Hotel in 1925, and was renamed the Hotel Don years before Bridge Housing acquired the property in 1990 to transform it into The Carquinez seniors apartment community. At that time, Bridge Housing made sure the property made its way onto the National Register of Historic Places. And in 1991, the 36 one-bedroom apartments were made available to the elderly with annual household earnings of 30 to 50 percent of the Area Median Income.

Inhabitants of historic buildings, however, frequently suffer the burdens of antiquated accommodations. Eager to update The Carquinez, in 2009 Bridge Housing commenced the rehab program from which the building has just emerged. Weir/Andrewson Associates served as the architect for the project, and Saarman Construction acted as general contractor. It took a great deal of teamwork to facilitate the renovation.

“As with any rehab, you always encounter a lot of unknowns, but historic rehabs are certainly more challenging than new construction,” Smitha Seshadri, project manager with Bridge Housing, tells MHN. But The Carquinez’s historic status proved to be quite an asset financially. “We benefited from leveraging historic tax credits,” she adds. “The building was still occupied; we couldn’t assess the unknowns so we didn’t start out thinking of it as a structural project. It was considered a cosmetic rehab, but once we went in, we noticed there was structural work to be done. The historic tax credits allowed us to pay for a substantial amount of the structural work.”

Before Bridge Housing and partners rolled up their sleeves, they arranged to accommodate the tenants, who would be displaced for a few weeks as each unit underwent its makeover. The team got creative, converting the former hotel lobby space on the first level of the building into furnished hospitality units and storage space by erecting temporary walls. For Bridge Housing, making proper arrangements to accommodate the elderly tenants, some of whom have called The Carquinez home for 20 years, was of the utmost importance. “We arranged with a company to not only help them move, but to help them pack.”

In the end, the project resulted in a seismic retrofit, roof replacements, new emergency systems, wheelchair ramps and widened doors. “The units got all new windows, new carpet, new paint, and 90 percent of the units have new appliances,” Seshadri says. “Also residents had a community room but it only had a microwave, so we went in and provided a sink, cabinets and counter space to make it into a functioning kitchen.” Residents can also enjoy a new deck and garden area. “Even with a shoestring budget, the upgrades will make a tremendous difference. The units work really well now. The tenants are absolutely thrilled.”

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