Photograph of a three-story mixed-use building with storefronts lining the first floor. Photograph of a landscaped patio, contained on two sides by a three-story building. Photograph of a large, open interior space, with four and five widely spaced window bays in the two walls in the background.  Photograph of a two-tiered chandelier descending from a ceiling medallion in a large room. Photograph of the interior of large room with plate glass windows running across the exterior wall. Photograph taken at the base of a long staircase, flanked by half-paneled walls and with a large two-tiered chandelier at the top of the staircase.

 

Home >Case Studies >Woodbury, New Jersey: G.G. Green Senior Residences Revitalize Historic Building

 

Woodbury, New Jersey: G.G. Green Senior Residences Revitalize Historic Building

 

G.G. Green’s Block, a former opera house in downtown Woodbury, New Jersey, has been preserved and adapted to meet the community’s need for affordable housing. In 2012, RPM Development purchased the dilapidated building and two adjacent structures and redeveloped them as affordable housing for low-income seniors and homeless veterans. The energy-efficient buildings provide 55 age-restricted apartments as well as retail and community spaces that enhance economic development efforts along the South Broad Street commercial corridor in this small city in Philadelphia’s suburbs.

Preserving History while Increasing Efficiency

G.G. Green’s Block was developed in 1880 by George Gill Green, a colonel in the Civil War and a successful businessman. The building, with its exuberant Romanesque architecture, contained not only the opera house but also offices, stores, and a meeting room. The building’s stone foundation, brick walls, arched windows, and heavy cornice — along with the importance of Green himself in the city’s early development — earned the structure a listing in the National Register of Historic Places in 2001. After being sold and remodeled several times, the building became vacant, and an earthquake in 2011 left the building structurally unsafe.

After the earthquake, the city considered demolishing G.G. Green’s Block, particularly because the owner of the building owed roughly $300,000 in back taxes. However, community members led a grassroots effort that raised $50,000 to save the landmark. RPM, which had been searching for a property to redevelop, worked with the city and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Historic Preservation Office on a plan to preserve the historic structure while converting the interior and adding to the building to create affordable residences for low-income seniors.

The city assisted in the adaptive reuse of G.G. Green’s Block by purchasing the property, reducing the tax lien, and selling the property to RPM for $1. The city also donated an underused pocket park, and RPM purchased two vacant adjacent structures to complete the redevelopment site.

In 2012, RPM began repairing the damage caused by the earthquake and years of neglect. In accordance with an agreement with the Historic Preservation Office, the developer retained as much of the original building as possible, including a 3,500-square-foot ballroom that became a community room. RPM also preserved the building’s interior Art Deco tiles that had been added in 1935 and retrofitted the first floor to the original configuration of four storefronts.

At the same time, RPM increased the building’s energy efficiency. The developer added insulation and installed low-flow water fixtures and efficient heating and cooling equipment. Windows in the G.G. Green building were also replaced with custom energy-efficient windows designed in the same style as the façade. These measures helped RPM earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification for the building and to meet the Version 3 requirements of the ENERGY STAR® for Homes program while still preserving key architectural elements of this historically significant building.

Affordable Rents and an Accessible Location

The renovated 66,000-square-foot building, which opened in August 2013 ahead of schedule and under budget, contains 7,000 square feet of retail space, 53 one-bedroom units, 3 two-bedroom units, and a community room. The residential units, which are split almost evenly between the original G.G. Green building and the new addition, are restricted to residents aged 55 or older with incomes that do not exceed 60 percent of the area median income (AMI). One unit is reserved for a superintendent, and six units are set aside for homeless veterans whose incomes are less than 30 percent of AMI.

An onsite coordinator connects residents with social service organizations and provides additional financial, employment, and educational assistance to the resident veterans. Because the building is located in Woodbury's downtown, residents also have access to nearby amenities such as parks, grocery stores, restaurants, and coffee shops. The property has a Walk Score of 81, indicating that the area is very walkable, and buses with stops nearby on Broad Street provide service to Philadelphia.

Funding

The $14.2 million project received federal historic tax credits from the Historic Preservation Office, which also helped the project earn an award of 9 percent low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs) from the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (table 1). To further help the project compete for LIHTCs, the city approved a payment in lieu of taxes from the developer. The Federal Home Loan Bank of New York’s Affordable Housing Program and the ENERGY STAR for Homes Version 3 program provided additional funding.


Table 1. G. G. Green Block Financing


Low-income housing tax credit equity

$11,793,308

Federal historic tax credit equity

1,406,944

Federal Home Loan Bank of New York's Affordable Housing Program

936,203

ENERGY STAR for Homes Program, Version 3

55,000

Positive equity adjustment from investors*

14,746

Total

$14,206,201

*Because the units were completed and leased earlier than expected, equity investors provided additional funds.

Community Impact

Kevin Kavanaugh, vice president of development at RPM, considers the building to be a success, noting that residents “who could not afford to have their own homes anymore were excited to move into what is essentially new construction in their own town.” The residential units have been fully occupied since shortly after the building’s opening, demonstrating the demand for the conveniently located, affordable housing.

The project has also benefited the larger community. The project used materials from suppliers in New Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania, generating a local economic impact. The mixed-use redevelopment also contributes to a lively streetscape in downtown Woodbury, in line with the city’s redevelopment plan. The renovated G.G. Green Block’s positive contribution to the city was recognized with a 2014 New Jersey Future Smart Growth Award for “preserv[ing] a treasured landmark while meeting a need for affordable housing and spurring economic growth.”

Source:

New Jersey Future. n.d.“From Opera House to Senior Housing.” Accessed 29 December 2014; Email correspondence from Kevin Kavanaugh, vice president of development at RPM Development, 23 January 2015.

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Source:

New Jersey Future. n.d. “From Opera House to Senior Housing.” Accessed 29 December 2014.

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Source:

Interview with Kevin Kavanaugh, vice president of development at RPM Development, 6 January 2015.

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Village Green Preservation Society. 2011. “Green Opera House update!” Accessed 16 January 2015. Interview with Kevin Kavanaugh, vice president of development at RPM Development, 6 January 2015.

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Source:

National Park Service. 2001. “National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: G.G. Green’s Block.” Accessed 2 January 2015; Interview with Kevin Kavanaugh, vice president of development at RPM Development, 6 January 2015; Email correspondence from Kevin Kavanaugh, vice president of development at RPM Development, 23 January 2015; RPM Development Group. 2013. “GG Green: Features.” Accessed 29 December 2014.

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Source:

Interview with Kevin Kavanaugh, vice president of development at RPM Development, 6 January 2015; Email correspondence from Kevin Kavanaugh, vice president of development at RPM Development, 23 January 2015.

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Source:

State of New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. 2013. “Christie Administration Marks Grand Opening of GG Green Senior Residences in Woodbury,” press release, 20 December. Accessed 16 January 2015; Interview with Kevin Kavanaugh, vice president of development at RPM Development, 6 January 2015; New Jersey Future. n.d. “From Opera House to Senior Housing.” Accessed 29 December 2014.

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Source:

State of New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. 2013. “Christie Administration Marks Grand Opening of GG Green Senior Residences in Woodbury,” 20 December press release. Accessed 16 January 2015; RPM Development Group. 2013. “GG Green: Neighborhood Highlights.” Accessed 29 December 2014; RPM Development Group. 2013. “GG Green: Public Transit.” Accessed 29 December 2014; Email correspondence from Kevin Kavanaugh, vice president of development at RPM Development, 23 January 2015.

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Source:

Interview with Kevin Kavanaugh, vice president of development at RPM Development, 6 January 2015; Email correspondence from Kevin Kavanaugh, 23 January 2015.

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Source:

Interview with Kevin Kavanaugh, 6 January 2015; Email correspondence from Kevin Kavanaugh, 23 January 2015; RPM Development Group. n.d. “our directors.” Accessed 5 January 2015.

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Source:

Interview with Kevin Kavanaugh, 6 January 2015; Email correspondence from Kevin Kavanaugh, 23 January 2015; City of Woodbury. 2012. “Development Agreement Reached on GG Green Property,” press release, 27 March. Accessed 16 January 2014; New Jersey Future. n.d. “From Opera House to Senior Housing.” Accessed 29 December 2014.

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