As the African proverb goes, “It takes a village.” Developer and private real estate investment firm, SAA | EVI, understands this saying well. Their commitment to fostering collaborative communities can be seen in the recent redevelopment of St. Luke Apartments in Richmond, Virginia. While under consideration of removal by the county in 2017, relationships built between SAA | EVI, existing residents, politicians, county and state officials, stakeholders and community organizations has given St. Luke Apartments a second chance and a new start for both the community and residents.
“Our Team at SAA | EVI is committed to developing real estate that does not displace,” said Ernst Valery, Co-managing Member at SAA | EVI. “We are mindful of all stakeholders – starting with the communities and people we serve, in addition to the bricks and mortar improvements that elevate living standards.”
St. Luke is a large development, comprising of 496 affordable homes, undergoing rehabilitation. While previous interested and involved developers lacked follow-through on commitments to St. Luke, SAA | EVI has remained steadfast in creating a safe, affordable place that Richmond residents are proud to call home.
St. Luke Apartments is named after Maggie Lena Walker, who served as secretary to the Independent Order of St. Luke, “an organization dedicated to the social and financial advancement of African Americans.” (source) When Maggie took over at St. Luke in 1899, it was on the verge of bankruptcy. However, Maggie committed to saving the organization. Even through the Great Depression, she was successful.
Much like Walker’s dedication to the Independent Order of St. Luke, SAA|EVI has remained committed to the rehabilitation and improvement of St. Luke Apartments – even through the COVID-19 global pandemic. From personally speaking with each resident to the recent formation of a tenant council, SAA | EVI is dedicated to the success of St. Luke and its greater impact in the Henrico County community.
“Through the connection to Maggie Lena Walker, we want our residents to see what they can do in their lives and for the betterment of their lives,” said Chrissie Steptoe, Head of Asset Management at SAA | EVI.
St. Luke’s new community center will be named after influential resident, Lamonte Bagby. The community center, grounds amenities and renovation program will offer residential services and upgrades, including:
- 250 security cameras and 24-hour guard
- Landscaping improvements
- On-site health clinic
- On-site police suite
- Outreach program offerings
- Playground and recreation areas
- Substantial system and unit updates
The newly formed tenant council was created to empower involved residents to attend community stakeholder meetings and voice their concerns, ideas and opinions, as well as connect with other stakeholders and law enforcement. These opportunities to connect with outside community members serve as a chance for individuals to build trust and understanding, while working together for a common goal.
“St. Luke’s Apartment is a large community with a large potential for impact,” said Neala Martin, SVP, Originator at CREA. “We are encouraged to see the many steps taken by SAA | EVI to connect the pieces that affordable housing touches in order to create a better picture and reality for local residents and community members.”
The picture that St. Luke Apartments is creating is continually coming together, with hopes of completion in Fall 2021.
“St. Luke is going to be a beautiful community for residents to grow, as well as a support system to do that,” said Steptoe. In addition to the many updates across the development and within each unit, a local artist has also been invited to create a mural within the community, described by Steptoe as a graphic of love. “Small things can really make a huge difference. You don’t know how long your reach is – it’s a ripple effect.”
Financial Support & Partnership: In addition to LIHTC equity provided through CREA Corporate Tax Credit Fund 74, LLC, St. Luke Apartments has received financial support through approximately $77MM in tax exempt bonds from Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and Suffolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority.
SAA | EVI: Since 1976, SA+A Development has worked with community leaders, government and investment partners to rebuild neighborhoods and urban centers. Beginning with completion of the first housing tax credit development in New York State (1987), SA+A has spearheaded innovations in the creation of affordable housing. Ernst Valery Investments Corp. (EVI) is a private real estate investment firm established in 2001 and incorporated in 2004 (NY) for the purpose of investing in select underserved and undervalued key emerging domestic real estate markets, defined as urban transitional areas with high residential and retail demand.