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Capitol Hall Renovation Upgrades Supportive Housing for New York City’s Vulnerable

Photograph of the entryway to a multistory brick building. Goddard Riverside Community Center renovated Capitol Hall in 2015 to modernize its residential units and augment the supportive services. Credit: Goddard Riverside Community Center

Capitol Hall, a supportive housing facility operated by the Goddard Riverside Community Center (GRCC), underwent a transformative renovation in 2015, when the 9-story building was converted from 200 single room occupancy (SRO) units to more private living spaces and expanded program spaces. GRCC’s $16.7 million renovation of the 1913 building enhanced supportive services, while adding private kitchenettes and bathrooms, restored historic features, and enlarged the community spaces. Neighborhood residents, who had successfully fought to save the SRO in 1983, backed the renovation. Today, Capitol Hall offers 200 modern apartments for low-income households and those formerly experiencing homelessness.

Near-Total Gutting Yields New Layout, Substantial Improvements

A major purpose of the renovation was to add private bath and cooking facilities to the SRO units. “Private bathrooms especially were a priority,” says Stephan Russo, who was the executive director of GRCC during the renovation. Rich Vitto of OCV Architects designed a new layout that required ripping out almost all the building’s interior, including the residential rooms, hallways, two stairwells, the superintendent’s penthouse apartment, and a courtyard. The architect was able to provide a kitchenette with a microwave and refrigerator in every unit and bathrooms in 152 units. Space limitations required 48 units to be arranged in suites where 2 units share bath facilities; although not ideal, the suites offer more privacy than the SRO’s bathrooms that were shared by all units on a floor. The renovation resulted in 191 studio apartments intended for a single occupant, 8 slightly larger studios for couples, and a 1-bedroom apartment as well as an apartment for the building superintendent. The project was divided into three phases to minimize the displacement of residents during the three-year renovation. The phased renovation allowed 130 tenants to remain in residence during the work, while GRCC housed the 70 residents displaced during each phase at other facilities.

The renovation also included new spaces for community activities and service delivery. An internal courtyard, for years used primarily to store trash, was converted into a skylighted community room. The renovation added two fully outfitted communal kitchens and a meeting/dining room in the basement, where meals are served regularly and residents can prepare their own meals. A laundry room and library were added. The historic marble lobby was restored, and the building’s exterior was steam cleaned to reveal its original details.

The $16.7 million renovation was financed through $10 million in low-income housing tax credits and a $6.7 million low-interest loan administered by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development. In addition, all of Capitol Hall’s units are subsidized through federal project-based rental assistance, which allows tenants to pay no more than 30 percent of their income for rent. Individuals participating in GRCC’s homeless outreach program may occupy 120 units in Capitol Hall. The remaining units are reserved for individuals making no more than 60 percent of the area median income.

Neighborhood Zeal for Affordable Supportive Housing

Photograph of approximately two dozen neighbors, residents, and other interested people standing in an ornate marble lobby during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.The most recent renovation restored the marble lobby, which dates back to Capitol Hall’s 1913 construction. Credit: Goddard Riverside Community Center

In the late 1970s, Capitol Hall was an SRO hotel that provided unsubsidized housing at low rents. However, the building was not well maintained and was slated for conversion into a luxury cooperative, the fate of many SROs in the Upper West Side in that era. Concerned that the conversion would lead many Capitol Hall residents to homelessness, the West 87th Street Block Association banded together with the tenants to stop the conversion. They brought in GRCC and the Settlement Housing Fund and saved the SRO in 1983.

At the same time, GRCC began providing support services in Capitol Hall, making it one of New York City’s first supportive housing facilities. The 2015 renovation added more space for services. “One of our goals was not just to renovate physically but also to expand the services. We now have a much more robust onsite support team,” says Russo. The medical and social services team provides services to Capitol Hall tenants that include case management, weekly visits from nurse practitioners, nutrition help, substance use counseling, and job training.

The Second Century of Capitol Hall

Russo considers the renovation a success. The number of units remained the same, no residents were permanently displaced, and the project was completed on time and within budget. As of February 2017, Capitol Hall is fully occupied. Residents appreciate the changes to the building — especially the privacy and dignity afforded by the redesigned units — and the bolstered support services. Capitol Hall’s neighbors, represented by the block association, continue to staunchly support the facility, participating in fundraising, volunteering their time and talents, and staging holiday and other special events for tenants. The renovation has strengthened Capitol Hall as it enters its second century.

Source:

Goddard Riverside Community Center. 2016. “Capitol Hall.” Accessed 23 January 2017; Joint interview with Stephan Russo, former executive director, and Roberta Solomon, associate director for homeless outreach and supportive housing programs, Goddard Riverside Community Center, 1 February 2017.

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Source:

Correspondence from Trish Anderton, director of public relations, Goddard Riverside Community Center, 8 February and 10 March 2017; Joint interview with Stephan Russo and Roberta Solomon, associate director for homeless outreach and supportive housing programs, Goddard Riverside Community Center, 1 February 2017; OCV Architects. n.d. “Capitol Hall.” Accessed 24 January 2017; Joint interview with Stephan Russo and Roberta Solomon, associate director for homeless outreach and supportive housing programs, Goddard Riverside Community Center, 1 February 2017.

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Source:

Joint interview with Stephan Russo and Roberta Solomon, associate director for homeless outreach and supportive housing programs, Goddard Riverside Community Center, 1 February 2017; OCV Architects. n.d. “Capitol Hall.” Accessed 24 January 2017.

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Source:

Goddard Riverside Community Center. 2015. “$16 Million Renovation Breathes New Life into Historic Building for Low-Income Residents,” press release. Accessed 23 January 2017; Joint interview with Stephan Russo and Roberta Solomon, associate director for homeless outreach and supportive housing programs, Goddard Riverside Community Center, 1 February 2017; Correspondence from Trish Anderton, director of public relations, Goddard Riverside Community Center, 22 February 2017.

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Source:

Supportive Housing Network of New York. 2016. “Distinctive Recognition: The Founders of the Supportive Housing Movement.” Accessed 25 January 2017; Supportive Housing Network of New York. n.d. “History of Supportive Housing.” Accessed 26 January 2017; Joint interview with Stephan Russo and Roberta Solomon, associate director for homeless outreach and supportive housing programs, Goddard Riverside Community Center, 1 February 2017.

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Source:

Supportive Housing Network of New York. 2016. “Distinctive Recognition: The Founders of the Supportive Housing Movement.” Accessed 25 January 2017; Joint interview with Stephan Russo and Roberta Solomon, associate director for homeless outreach and supportive housing programs, Goddard Riverside Community Center, 1 February 2017.

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Source:

Joint interview with Stephan Russo and Roberta Solomon, associate director for homeless outreach and supportive housing programs, Goddard Riverside Community Center, 1 February 2017.

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