Construction of affordable housing begins at Barbara Jordan II site

A GROUNDBREAKING WAS HELD recently in Providence for the planned Joseph Caffey Apartments, as represented by the above rendering, at 16 Somerset St., where 54 rental units are planned. / RENDERING COURTESY DBVW ARCHITECTS INC.

PROVIDENCE – Vacant since 2018, when the R.I. Housing and Mortgage Finance Corp. acquired the property from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the former Barbara Jordan II development in South Providence is being redeveloped.

The construction project will result in 79 new affordable rental homes and will take about two years to complete at a cost of about $28 million.

A groundbreaking for the affordable housing construction project was held on April 25 at the site of the planned Joseph Caffey Apartments at 16 Somerset St., where 54 of the rental units are planned, and Jordan Caffey Townhomes at 15 Somerset St., where the 25 other rental units are planned. The event was attended by Gov. Daniel J. McKee, Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza.

Omni Development Corp. and Wingate Capital Partners LLC were selected as co-developers of the affordable housing project in June 2020 after R.I. Housing conducted a request for proposals process and did community outreach.

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“The planned redevelopment of the former Barbara Jordan II development has brought a diverse group of community members, neighborhood groups, nonprofit organizations, public and private investors, and elected officials together to create a vision for how a neighborhood of vacant and abandoned properties could be reimagined and transformed to offer safe, healthy and affordable housing to the families that will live here,” R.I. Housing said in an announcement about the project. “As we break ground on these new homes, we are beginning that new chapter. We are building on a process begun several years ago to transform this neighborhood and bring the vision created through the community engagement process to life.”

The Joseph Caffey Apartments and Jordan Caffey Townhomes are named in honor of Joseph Caffey and Barbara Jordan, according to R.I. Housing, a loan-providing agency that was created by the General Assembly in 1973 but receives no state funding for its operations. Caffey was a longtime executive director of Omni Development Corp., and Jordan was the namesake of the former development as a civil rights leader and U.S. representative.

The project is being financed by several sources, with most of the funding coming from the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program, according to R.I. Housing.

The 26 fenced-off two- and three-story apartment buildings of the Barbara Jordan II development – built out starting in the 1980s and owned by the Phoenix-Griffin Group until HUD acquired the property in 2012 – have been under demolition since March. That process is expected to last through May, according to a project timeline provided by R.I. Housing.

Construction is expected to last for 18 to 24 months starting in May, R.I. Housing said.

The development will then be leased out in the fall of 2022 through the winter of 2023.

The architect for the project is DBVW Architects Inc. and the general contractor is Pezzuco Construction Inc. The development will be managed by Wingate Management Co.

R.I. Housing said the Jordan Caffey Townhomes will have 40 rent-restricted apartments, which will serve households earning at or below 60% of area median income. The Joseph Caffey Apartments will comprise 39 rent-restricted apartments, serving households earning 50% to 80% area median income, according to R.I. Housing. The Providence Housing Authority will provide a rental subsidy for 16 units, serving households earning below 30% area median income, the agency said.

“I am excited to see this type of momentum in expanding our housing stock in Rhode Island,” McKee said. “As we know, access to housing means more than just having a roof over our heads – it leads to increased opportunities for educational success, career pathways and overall quality of life. I am grateful to Senator Reed, R.I. Housing and all of our partners who helped secure this investment to boost our affordable housing supply, transform the Upper South Providence neighborhood and reinvigorate our economy.”

Marc Larocque is a PBN staff writer. Contact him at Larocque@PBN.com. You may also follow him on Twitter @LaRockPBN.

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