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Work begins in Utica on Olbiston Apartments rehabilitation project

By Traci DeLore (tdelore@cnybj.com)

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State and local officials recently celebrated a $67 million project to rehabiliate and modernize the Olbiston Apartments in Utica. The building closed in 2021 due to safety concerns. Once complete, the refurbished building will house 152 energy-efficient and affordable apartments. (Photo credit: Oneida County Exceutive Anthony J. Picente Jr. Facebook page)

UTICA, N.Y. — A $67 million rehabilitation and modernization project at Olbiston Apartments recently began after the 124-year-old Utica building shut down last year due to severe safety concerns. The redesigned building will house 152 energy-efficient, affordable apartments.

Originally opened in 1898, the Romanesque Revival-style structure began deteriorating until 2021 when the city evacuated residents after an inspection revealed unsafe conditions 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 redevelopment of the Olbiston is a prime example of successful public-private partnerships,” Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri said in a statement. “Due to gross negligence and inhumane living conditions, the city shut down 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 State Homes and Community Renewal, Liberty Affordable Housing is revitalizing the Olbiston and preserving over 150 units of affordable housing.”

The project will reconfigure and modernize all of the apartments while retaining the building’s historic character including marble floors and decorative wood trim in common areas. Once complete, the structure will include 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, and outdoor green space. The units will be affordable to households earning at or below 80 percent of the area’s median income.

Energy-efficiency measures, which will achieve Energy Star and Enterprise Green Communities certifications, include a new roof membrane with increased insulation, cold-climate heat pumps, a centralized hot-water system provided by 98-percent-efficiency boilers, building-wide LED lighting, and Energy Star-rated or equivalent appliances. Liberty Affordable Housing, Inc. is the project developer.

Financing 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 subsidies from New York State Homes and Community Renewal. Additionally, 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 provided by a deferred developer fee.

The recently enacted state budget includes a $25 billion, five-year comprehensive housing plan to increase the housing supply by creating or preserving 100,000 affordable homes across the state, including 10,000 with support services for vulnerable populations.

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