Sole Private Equity Investor $4.9MM Total Project Closed October 2021
A zero energy, transit-oriented mixed-use development consisting of 20 units of affordable housing and four commercial storefronts, including a childcare service provider, in the predominantly Black Penn North neighborhood in West Baltimore
*at time of investment
The Zero Energy North Avenue Affordable Housing project is the first multifamily, zero energy development in Baltimore and the first mixed-use, zero energy development in Maryland. The project created 20 units of affordable housing and four retail storefronts in the predominantly Black Penn North neighborhood in West Baltimore. The project sponsor plans to lease the retail units to Black-owned businesses and a childcare services provider. The project’s goal is to accommodate future residents’ employment, living and childcare needs all under one roof by providing first right of refusal to owners and staff of the ground-level commercial spaces. The development brings new job opportunities to a community that has long suffered from disinvestment and is also less than a block from The Penn North Metro subway station, connecting residents to the employment opportunities and other resources of downtown Baltimore.
The $4.9 million project, in which the Woodforest CEI-Boulos Opportunity Fund is the sole private equity investor, was financed by a loan from Enterprise Community Loan Partners, a community development finance institution, and approximately $1.1 million in grant/forgivable loan funding from the City of Baltimore and the State of Marylan.
The project is on the forefront of environmentally sustainable building practices. Solar panels and superinsulated walls will allow the property to produce as much energy as it consumes, reducing energy costs and allowing the housing units to be even more affordable. The project is expected to achieve Passive House certification for its energy efficiency, providing a unique example to the City of Baltimore of building affordable housing in a highly environmentally sustainable manner. The project’s focus on sustainability implicitly addresses the overarching issue of environmental justice in underinvested communities.
The Zero Energy North Avenue Affordable Housing project restores seven abandoned, historic townhouses and converts them into two new, consolidated buildings. Fifteen of the 20 new apartments will be restricted for 30 years to rental rates affordable to households earning 50% of area medium income (AMI). The remaining apartments will be leased at rates affordable to households earning 80% AMI and will be formally restricted not to exceed rates affordable to households earning 120% AMI for at least 10 years. With the elimination of energy bills, these units will be even more affordable than the AMI restrictions indicate.
The project supports approximately 20 permanent indirect jobs through the four retail storefronts that will be located on the ground floor of the building in addition to 100-120 direct construction jobs. A local workforce development nonprofit will fill 31 of the construction jobs by training individuals with low incomes in sustainable building practices and solar panel installation.
The city and state recently designated the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor, including much of the Penn North neighborhood, as Baltimore’s “Black Arts District.” Once a thriving center of Black culture and entertainment from the 1940s through the 1960s with theaters and music venues, the district is being revitalized largely by Black-led community organizations and businesses. A local arts organization is collaborating with Schreiber Brothers Development to create a mural for the building facade, and many of the tenants are expected to be artists. Schreiber Brothers Development has also taken additional steps to further engage the community with the project. The project is aligned with and in support of the City of Baltimore’s “2019 Framework for Neighborhood Investment” plan and the city’s “Leveraging Investment in Neighborhood Corridors” plan.