On behalf of HUD and the National Trust for Historic Preservation , Housing and Urban Development Secretary Mel Martinez has awarded the 2001 Secretary's Award for Excellence to the Famicos Foundation for the Notre Dame Academy, Cleveland, Ohio.
The award recognizes projects and activities that advance the goals of historic preservation and provide affordable housing and expanded economic opportunities, particularly for low- and moderate-income people. This is the fourth year the award has been given.
The Famicos Foundation was awarded this honor for their exceptional work on the restoration and conversion of the Notre Dame Academy, a historic landmark in the City of Cleveland, Ohio. The Notre Dame Academy building was constructed in 1914 as a Catholic school for young women. Situated on a bluff overlooking Rockefeller Park, Notre Dame was immediately recognized as a masterpiece of the Collegiate Gothic Revival, which architectural style favorably complemented the cultural gardens of the urban park.
In 1986, Notre Dame Academy was elected to the National Register of Historic Places. By that time, the Academy site, then owned by the City of Cleveland, had stood vacant, vandalized, and neglected for 26 years. The future of the surrounding Rockefeller Park neighborhood's redevelopment was dependent on restoration of its largest landmark, the abandoned Notre Dame Academy.
The Famicos Foundation, a successful area development group, met with community leaders in 1995 to undertake the Rockefeller Park Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy. Part of the strategy was a plan to convert the Academy building into affordable apartments for independent elderly people.
Primary financing for the project was a unique combination of HUD 202 Supportive Housing program funds with Low Income Housing Tax Credits and Historic Tax Credits through National Equity Fund. After an additional investment from the City of Cleveland Housing Trust Fund, the project was still $1.5 million short of target funding. To fill this gap, Famicos took an unprecedented risk by pledging its own endowment to allow the project to move forward while they took up a campaign to raise the additional funds.
In 1999 the Notre Dame Academy building was converted to 73 apartments with a fully restored exterior. In addition to providing affordable housing, Famicos will begin construction of a Community Service Center on the ground floor of Notre Dame in 2001.