Rockabill Partnership Building $28M Affordable Development in NY

The public-private venture will bring 62 new apartments and a community center to Utica, N.Y.

Community center at the Johnson Park Green Community Apartments planned for Utica, N.Y. Rendering courtesy of Rockabill Development

Rockabill Development and Johnson Park Center have begun construction of a $28 million development that will create 62 affordable homes, including 31 with supportive services, in the Cornhill-Johnson Park neighborhood of Utica, N.Y. The project, which includes a mix of housing types, is slated for completion in May 2024.

Johnson Park Green Community Apartments, which will provide energy-efficient residences, are part of New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s $25 billion Housing Plan to create or preserve 100,000 affordable homes across New York state. The plan also calls for 10,000 of the homes to provide support services for vulnerable populations and electrification of an additional 50,000 homes.

Located on several parcels owned by Johnson Park Center, the development will consist of a three-story building featuring 51 one-bedroom apartments at 6 Johnson Park and 11 two- and three-bedroom apartments in duplex style buildings at 200 Square St. and 14 Johnson Park. All apartments will be affordable to households earning at or below 30 percent of the Area Median Income. A12,000-square-foot community center at 1415 West St. will also be constructed, providing a food pantry and classroom space for residents and the surrounding community.

Development Details

Thirty-one of the apartments will include supportive services for frail elderly households and homeless individuals with a serious mental illness diagnosis. Supportive services will be provided by Johnson Park Center with operating funding from the Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative and the State Department of Health. Johnson Park Center is a community-based not-for-profit organization founded more than 25 years ago by Rev. Dr. Maria Scates.

The buildings will be designed to meet Passive House standards and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s Buildings of Excellence program criteria. Energy-efficient features will include a solar photovoltaic system capable of meeting 100 percent of the development’s energy demand, with a goal of net-zero emissions. All the buildings will have an energy recovery ventilation system to constantly exhaust and bring in fresh air and appliances will be Energy Star-rated. The project is expected to achieve a minimum LEED Gold certification and is well-positioned to reach LEED Platinum.

The development plans also include parking, a manager’s office, central community room, common space, storage rooms and laundry room. Grocery stores, restaurants, local community services, Roscoe Conkling Park, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School are all in walking distance.

Funding Sources

Funding comes from a variety of sources including $15 million in Federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and Solar Tax Credit Equity, and $3 million in subsidy from New York State Homes and Community Renewal. The New York State Office of Temporary Disability Assistance will provide $5.6 million through its Homeless Housing and Assistance program. NYSERDA is providing $1.2 million in incentives through its Buildings of Excellence and New Construction Housing programs. The City of Utica is providing $1.5 million.

Other financing sources include a $16 million construction loan from Chase Community Development Banking. Hudson Housing Capital, the tax credit syndicator, and the Tax Oriented Investments unit of J.P. Morgan invested more than $14.8 million in tax credit equity. The Community Foundation of Herkimer & Oneida Counties contributed $250,000.

Rockabill Experience

Rockabill, a Hoboken, N.J.,-based boutique real estate development and consulting firm, specializes in partnering with nonprofit organizations that focus on affordable housing. In April, Rockabill and nonprofit Goddard Riverside began development of an $83 million project in Manhattan to transform an illegal hotel into 68 units of permanent supportive housing for homeless single adults.

In February, Rockabill, secured $97 million in financing for the construction of a 134-unit affordable housing building for seniors in the Tremont section of the Bronx.

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