With apologies to the Beatles, it has been a long and winding road getting work started on the Tiger Senior Apartments.
Local and state officials gathered Thursday, Nov. 21, in the cafeteria of the old Paris High School to celebrate the beginning of work after an arduous four years of piecing together funding for converting the more than a century-old school building into 42 units of senior apartments.
A groundbreaking wasn’t appropriate since the building is already standing so the dignitaries had a wall breaking to symbolize the extensive demo work needed for tearing out multiple remodeling jobs to get the interior as close as possible to its original finish.
“We need to be smiling all day,” said Paris Mayor Craig Smith. “It is a great day for the city of Paris.”
Smith said many people deserve credit for keeping the project on track and not giving up faith when some possible funding sources did not pan out. He thanked the Edgar County Community Foundation for participating so the project was eligible for historic tax credits. The Paris City Council was also thanked for having insight of the future possibilities.
According to Smith, the city faced two choices after Paris Union School District 95 vacated the building for the new high school on 1200th Road. He said one option was to panic about such a large empty building deteriorating on the town’s main street. The other course was to be proactive, acquire the property and find a use for it.
“We always thought affordable housing would be a good thing for this building,” said Smith.
A proven partner stood in the wings. Paris had already worked with the Laborers’ Home Development Corporation in the development of affordable rental housing with the Maple Ridge I and II apartment complexes near Paris Community Hospital.
Smith acknowledged getting three affordable housing projects with Laborers’ Home Development Corp in a community the size of Paris is unusual, but the celebration Thursday morning spoke to the working relationship between the city and the development group.
“This building of 100 years old will be among the greatest affordable housing units in Illinois,” said Smith.
That idea was echoed by Amy Bashiti, Community Revitalization Planning Specialist with the Illinois Housing Development Authority. She said there is a need for affordable senior housing in Illinois and this project created much excitement in her office.
“It is encouraging to see the city taking an active role in seeking diversity in housing,” Bashiti said.
A representative from Senator Dick Durbin’s office offered congratulations, and a congratulatory letter from Senator Tammy Duckworth was read.
Senator Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) expressed admiration for how government agencies and the private sector worked together without partisanship to reach a positive end.
“It’s amazing when you have a visionary mayor and city council to find a use for an old building instead of letting it become a problem,” said Rose.
The demolition work for the rehabilitation started before Thursday’s ceremony. An initial examination early in the process caused Core Construction to revise its original cost estimate.
“It’s a very solid structure,” said Caleb Wyss of Core Construction. “The extra expense is for all of the remodeling done over the years. It is ceiling above ceiling above ceiling.”
All of the alterations done to the building over a century must be removed to get back to the original fabric. Wyss also noted the used of historic tax credits in the financing required redesigning the energy efficient windows to be compatible with the historical requirements.
The popularity of the Maple Ridge I and II apartments was such those units were rented before construction was complete and a waiting list continues of people wanting to move in when a vacancy occurs.
Kara Englum is the Maple Ridge site manager and she anticipates pent up demand for the Tiger Senior Apartments. She said 20 people have already put their names on the list for moving into the space that will feature studio, one and two bedroom apartments. Other amenities include a computer room, trash and recycling chutes, on-site management, a gym, auditorium, an elevator and upgraded electrical, plumbing and heating and cooling systems.
She anticipates demand for the apartments to increase as the construction progresses.
“The calls started three years ago after it was first announced,” said Englum. “I’ve seen some of the drawings of what is planned. It’s going to be amazing. There are parts of the building revealed that some people have never seen.”