WASHINGTON, D.C. – Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) Chair Sara C. Bronin and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today presented Commodore Place Apartments in Cleveland, Ohio, with the 2023 ACHP/HUD Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation. The award was presented during a ceremony at HUD Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
This annual award recognizes a single project that has successfully advanced the goals of historic preservation, while at the same time providing affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families and individuals.
“We applaud the partners behind the Commodore Place Apartments, who have illuminated the vital role of historic preservation in ensuring more sustainable, equitable communities and in tackling the affordable housing crisis,” Bronin said. “Across all levels of government, we must commit to making it easier to convert and rehabilitate more older buildings for housing.”
HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge agreed that historic preservation is key.
“Preservation is critical to community health and our work to expand the supply of housing across the country,” she said. “Everyone deserves to live in a community they feel connected to. Preserving pre-existing homes is one way to ensure families of all incomes, particularly people with low incomes, can access housing of their choice.”
Patricia Belden, Executive Vice President of The Community Builders, accepted the award on behalf of Commodore Place Apartments.
“As an anchor in Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood, Commodore Place preserves housing affordability for almost 200 families, near transit and grocery stores,” Belden said. “On behalf of The Community Builders, I extend my deepest thanks to Secretary Fudge and Chair Bronin for their stewardship, and the many partners and leaders who made this preservation possible, including the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, the City of Cleveland, Key Bank and, most especially, the residents of Commodore Place.”
Commodore Place Apartments began in 1924 as a hotel in the University Circle neighborhood of Cleveland. The building was converted to apartments in 1964, with residents that included professionals, musicians, and Cleveland Browns football players. Because of its prime location near museums, universities, hospitals, parks, restaurants, and mass transit, along with its architectural quality, Commodore Place was at risk of conversion to market rate apartments and displacement of most of its residents, who relied on the building’s affordability.
Working within the City of Cleveland’s plan for community revitalization, The Community Builders purchased the building in 2015 for $8.7 million with a mission to ensure affordability, healthy living, and access to vital services for residents. Other partners included Sullebarger Associates 2023 and City Architecture.
The redevelopment of the historic high-rise building comprised 198 residential units, including the preservation of 144 affordable units and an additional 54 market-rate units. Renovation of the building, clad with red brick and accented with stone, retained its distinctive features, finishes, and construction techniques that characterize the property in the Tudor Revival style. While the building has a rectangular footprint, the upper floors have an irregular U-shaped floor plan with deep courtyards on the rear and side. The restoration retained the original corridor layout on the upper floors.
The project complied with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation, and when the project was reviewed pursuant to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, it was found to have no adverse effect on the historic properties.
Completed in October 2021, the Commodore Place Apartments project was funded through federal low-income housing tax credit and historic tax credit equity provided by Key Bank, a HUD 221(d)4 mortgage, a City of Cleveland HOME loan, and sponsor loans.
Through the preservation of this historic building, The Community Builders safeguarded affordability and diversity in an area with skyrocketing market rents. They did so through strong community support and buy-in from the city.