NH&RA Member Firm, Vesta Corporation, rehabs Villa Serena Apartments in Mayfield Heights, Ohio.

A senior living community that was the dream of an Italian immigrant is being brought into the 21st century by affordable housing specialists, Vesta Corporation. The Villa Serena Apartments in Mayfield Heights, Ohio, will be renovated by Vesta Corporation through a unique public and private partnership that is seen as a model for affordable senior housing nationwide.

“We are pleased to be part of the team that will help to preserve this important and needed affordable housing community for Northeast Ohio Seniors,” says Lewis Brown, Vice President of Vesta Corporation. “The collaborative nature of the project will be of interest to anyone who is concerned about the future of affordable housing for our rapidly aging demographic.”

A Dream to “Aid the Distressed”

Villa Serena was founded in 1967, the decade-long project of immigrant grocer Frank Alesci. He joined with like-minded friends to create the St. Francis Foundation to aid “the distressed and helpless”, particularly low-income seniors. They built the 242-unit apartment community in 1967 with a federal government Housing and Urban Development (HUD)-insured 202 mortgage that matures in 2015.

As 2015 approached, the 47-year-old community needed extensive renovations to continue serving its elderly residents. The St. Francis Foundation lacked the funds to undertake the needed repairs. The fate of the building and its residents hung on whether or not the Foundation could get backing from other government affordable housing programs.

Making their Case

The leadership of St. Francis Foundation learned that the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) had funds available through the highly competitive 9% Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) Program. In 2013, on behalf of the St. Francis Foundation, Vesta prepared their plan and was awarded the LIHTC’s for Villa Serena Apartments.  In addition, on behalf of the Saint Francis Foundation, Vesta was one of twelve developers in the country to be awarded a federal Senior Preservation Rental Assistance Contract (SPRAC), another program designed to prevent low-income seniors from being displaced from their HUD-supported housing. Combined with an FHA First Mortgage, the LIHTC award, and the $2 million, 20-year subsidy will finance most of the estimated $40,000 per-apartment cost of the renovation.

History and Track Record

“Villa Serena and the Saint Francis Foundation elected to partner with Vesta Corporation based on its history of successfully redeveloping affordable housing communities both in and outside of Ohio,” says Thomas Pitrone, the St. Francis president, who spearheaded the effort to find financing for the renovation. “Vesta’s commitment to building learning/community centers and providing social services when possible was another important factor.”

Vesta Corporation currently operates in four states and the District of Columbia; with over 30 communities and nearly 5,000 apartments.  Vesta Management Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Vesta Corporation, has a strong track-record of successful management, built on its principals’ 33 years of experience developing, managing, and owning affordable housing.

Addressing the Full Range of Needs

Villa Serena’s $9,700,000 in capital improvements will include new carpeting, flooring, paint, cabinets and fixtures. Major building systems and common areas will be upgraded. A new sprinkler system, energy-efficient roof system, and other improvements will be compliant with Ohio’s environmental standards. Vesta will work with general contractor Marous Brothers Construction, of Willoughby, Ohio.

The physical renovation will be accompanied by an upgrade in Villa Serena’s social services. A full-time resident services coordinator will help residents navigate assistance programs and take full advantage of their entitlements. Villa Serena residents will also benefit from on-site visiting medical services and transportation to shopping, medical appointments, and other destinations.

About Vesta Corporation

Headquartered in Weatogue, Conn., Vesta Corporation develops, manages and owns affordable housing. Vesta specializes in redeveloping distressed, affordable housing communities, adding value through revitalization, sound management, and by investing in both the company’s real estate and its residents. Since 1981, Vesta principals Steven Erie and Arthur Greenblatt have closed approximately $1 billion in financing.  Vesta currently manages 29 affordable housing communities in Connecticut, New Jersey, Ohio and Washington, D.C with nearly 5,000 apartments. Visit Vesta online at www.vestacorp.com.