Last winter the City of Rochester made a Hail Mary pass to save the historic Pulaski Library. They posted an offer to sell the vacant building for a thousand dollars to anyone with a serious plan to fix it up. I’m not sure how many proposals were submitted, but I’ve learned that Providence Housing Development Corporation has been given the green light.
Providence Housing has worked on similar adaptive reuse projects such as Paul Wolk Commons on State Street, and the Holy Rosary Apartments on Dewey. Although Pulaski may be smaller, it could prove to be a much bigger challenge…
Providence Housing wants to convert the library into low-income apartments. However, they say to make this concept financially viable, they will need to turn the space into at least nine (9) units – six on the first floor, and three at the basement level. The apartments would be single-bedroom, each with a living room, dining room, and kitchen in an open floor plan.
Karen Staertow, Development Associate with Providence, says the idea is very similar to the Holy Rosary project – a $15 million dollar adaptive reuse of the Holy Rosary church , convent and rectory. That’s a project which include a range of funding sources and more than $1 million of historic tax credit equity. “With this project being a success, we felt it was possible to do it again,” Karen tells me. “Also, we selected PLAN Architectural Studios as a part of the development team, and they’ve had significant involvement with the Pulaski Library in the past, working with the City.”
Providence estimates the total cost of the project to be $2 Million and funding would have to come from a mix of construction loans, grants, historic tax credits, and assistance from the City of Rochester. Last week City Council adopted legislation which allows the City to seek up to $300,000 in state grants through NY State’s Consolidated Funding Application. The City is also prepared to match that amount with $300,000 in local funds.
Because Providence is seeking those historic tax credits, the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) needs to approve the plan before any work can begin. Unfortunately, the first concept was turned down because the interior space was divided up too much. After all, a “preservation” project should preserve as much of the building’s character as possible (this includes architectural details and interior spaces). So Providence has gone back to the drawing board to rework the plans and keep more of the interior open.
While I can’t get into too much detail or show the plans, I can say they have found a creative way to keep all nine apartment units while preserving much of the spacious old library reading room. They’ll create loft apartments using those super high ceilings. And by moving the bedroom up over top of the living space, they will substantially reduce the footprint of each apartment, and allow more of the overall floor plan to remain open.
If SHPO denies the new plans and Providence is unable to squeeze nine units into the space, they may have to look outside the existing footprint of the building and build on ajoining lots. But obviously that would complicate an already complicated job.
Staying positive though, Karen says she is hopeful SHPO will approve the new plans when those are submitted in the coming weeks. And as this valuable historic building continues to decay, I know at least one blogger who is also hopeful. Fingers crossed.
About Providence Housing Development Corp.
Providence Housing Development Corporation is an affiliate of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester and is operated by Catholic Charities of the diocese. The organization’s mission is to strengthen families and communities by creating and providing access to quality affordable housing enriched by the availability of supportive services. Since 1994, Providence has secured more than $135.5 million in project development funding from public and private sources and has created more than 900 units of affordable housing.
Tags: adaptive reuse, Designated Building of Historic Value, historic preservation, history of Rochester, Hudson Avenue, New York State Historic Preservation Office, Norton Avenue, preservation, Providence Housing Development Corporation, Pulaski Library, Rochester, Rochester history, Rochester landmark, Rochester NY, Rochester Public Library, urban exploration
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