Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that the $67 million rehabilitation and modernization of Olbiston Apartments in the City of Utica is now underway. The historic development will undergo extensive renovations after the City of Utica shut it down last year due to severe safety concerns at the 124-year-old building. The redesigned building will contain 153 safe, energy-efficient affordable apartments.
"The restoration of Olbiston Apartments is an example of the difference we can make in the lives of New Yorkers when we work together to replace dilapidated structures with safe and affordable homes," Governor Hochul said. "Renovations to the Olbiston Apartments will rescue a historic gem and retain a critical supply of affordable housing, while also helping us achieve our goals for green, sustainable buildings and more vibrant downtowns."
Olbiston Apartments is part of Governor Hochul's statewide plan to make housing more affordable, equitable, and stable. In the recently enacted State Budget, the Governor successfully secured a new $25 billion, five-year, comprehensive housing plan that will increase housing supply by creating or preserving 100,000 affordable homes across New York, including 10,000 with support services for vulnerable populations, plus the electrification of an additional 50,000 homes.
The Romanesque Revival style building originally opened in 1898 as the largest apartment building in Upstate New York and was later subdivided multiple times during the 20th century. By the 1970s, the building had begun to deteriorate and was left to further decay. In 2021, residents were evacuated after an inspection revealed unsafe conditions in the building including extensive water damage on the upper floors due to a damaged roof, broken windows, fire systems not working properly, and other code violations.
The gut rehabilitation will reconfigure and modernize all of the complex's apartments while retaining the building's historic character including original, century-old marble floors and decorative wood trim in common areas.
When complete, the Olbiston Apartments will offer 34 studio apartments, 87 one-bedroom units, and 32 two-bedroom units, with new appliances in all units, a 1,500-square-foot community space, a new roof deck, on-site laundry facilities, storage areas throughout the building, and outdoor green space. All 153 apartments will be affordable to households earning at or below 80 percent of the Area Median Income.
The building's redesign will achieve Energy Star and Enterprise Green Communities certifications by utilizing several energy-efficiency measures, including a new roof membrane with increased insulation, cold climate heat pumps with high energy efficiency ratings for heating and cooling for all apartments, a centralized hot-water system provided by 98% efficiency boilers, building-wide LED lighting, and Energy Star rated or equivalent appliances. The developer for this project is Liberty Affordable Housing, Inc.
Olbiston Apartments is located just one mile southwest of the city's downtown center. The complex is on local bus lines and is near a grocery store, a pharmacy, medical facilities, daycare centers, and a public library.
Financing for Olbiston Apartments includes $4.8 million in permanent tax-exempt bonds, State and Federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits that will generate $22 million in equity, and $16.3 million in subsidy from New York State Homes and Community Renewal. The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation approved State and Federal Historic Tax Credits that will generate $13.4 million in equity. The City of Utica provided $3 million from the Utica Prosperity Initiative. Additional financing is being provided by a deferred developer fee.
Housing and Community Renewal Commissioner RuthAnne Visnauskas said, "Investing in our state's existing housing stock is a necessary component of achieving the targets set by Governor Hochul's housing agenda. New York's investment and partnership with the City of Utica and Liberty Affordable Housing will reverse years of mismanagement and return the Olbiston Apartments to its original stature as a beautiful, safe, and comfortable place to live. When renovations are complete, this 124-year-old building will offer 153 modern homes in a sustainably designed building that will benefit the Utica community for generations to come and contribute to a greener New York for all. We are grateful to the City of Utica and Liberty Affordable Housing for intervening and working with HCR to save important source of affordable housing and provide Utica residents the quality homes they deserve."
Commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Erik Kulleseid said, "The Olbiston Apartments project shows how historic preservation is breathing new life into cities like Utica. The Historic Tax Credit program is attracting reinvestment in historic structures, which helps lift local economies, expand housing, promote sustainability and preserve the heritage of our cities and towns."
State Senator Joe Griffo said, "I am pleased that the Olbiston Apartments in Utica, once considered the height of luxury and elegance but neglected over time, will be completely renovated, rehabilitated and given a new life. This project will ensure that this historically significant property remains in the community and that Utica residents and families are provided with additional safe, secure and affordable housing options."
Oneida County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. said, "The Olbiston Apartments are an indelible part of the rich history of Utica and I'm happy that this building will be preserved for future generations. It was disappointing to see how badly it had deteriorated and the living conditions its residents were subjected to were unacceptable. Oneida County was instrumental in assisting those residents during that difficult time, and I'm glad that through state and local funding, the Olbiston will be restored to its former glory."
Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri said, "The redevelopment of the Olbiston is a prime example of successful public-private partnerships. Due to gross negligence and inhumane living conditions, the city shutdown the Olbiston in 2021. The city provided significant funding through the Utica Prosperity Initiative, and by working in collaboration with Governor Hochul's office and New York States Homes and Community Renewal, Liberty Affordable Housing is revitalizing the Olbiston and preserving over 150 units of affordable housing. I thank all partners as this is a win-win for our entire community."
Assemblymember Marianne Buttenschon said, "At a time when housing costs are high, it is encouraging to see the creation of 153 affordable apartments in downtown Utica. The rehabilitation of the historic Olbiston Apartments is a project about which people in the Mohawk Valley should feel proud. I am glad to see as many architectural elements as possible will remain in place on this historical building. Increasing Utica's stock of affordable housing is incredibly important as families are being burdened with rising inflation that's putting major stress on our wallets."