City wins 'Oscar' of community development for Village at Roll Hill project

Last week, the City of Cincinnati was awarded one of 10 annual Audrey Nelson Community Development Awards for its contributions to the renovations of the Villages at Roll Hill, formerly called Fay Apartments. The development was in need of renovations because it had fallen into disrepair, and was known as a police hotspot.
“It’s a very prestigious award within the community development profession,” says Cincinnati’s Department of Community Development Director Michael Cervay. “We consider it the ‘Oscar’ of community development.”
The development is the largest LEED-certified renovation of affordable housing in the country. Though there are other affordable housing developments in need of renovation, construction work hasn’t begun and the U.S. Green Building Council hasn’t certified these projects as meeting LEED standards, Cervay says.
The City contributed $3.19 million in HOME loan money to the project; additional financing included $31 million from a HUD-insured first mortgage and $1 million in equity from the developer, Wallick Hendy. The project totaled out at about $35 million.
The Audrey Nelson Community Development Achievement Award is a national community development award that is presented by the National Community Development Association. The award recognizes exemplary uses of the Community Development Block Grant program and the partnerships between local government and nonprofits to assist low- and moderate-income households.
Construction began on the Roll Hill development in Oct. 2010. It’s considered the largest green renovation of an affordable housing development in the country, Cervay says.
Renovations included reducing the total number of units from 893 to 703, demolishing 17 buildings, adding new landscaping, planting trees and installing new playgrounds. On top of that, police personnel from District 3 added recommendations to the plans that increased the cost of the project by about $800,000, Cervay says.
These recommendations included perimeter fencing, extra security lighting, surveillance cameras, first-floor window bars, rear doors that open out and additional security personnel. In addition, the Villages at Roll Hill purchased a license plate reader that will notify police in real time if a stolen car or a car registered to someone with an outstanding warrant enters the premises.
Audrey Nelson was the first Deputy Executive Secretary of NCDA. She grew up in a neighborhood in inner city Chicago that was a target area for the local Model Cities Program. The award stands for Nelson’s commitment to her neighborhood, local program efforts and service to low-income households. She died of cancer at the age of 29.
By Caitlin Koenig
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