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New South Street Apartments Occupied Rehab a Team Success

Renovations are almost complete for HCDI’s New South Street Apartments, an 18-unit historic building in Northampton. The occupied rehab began in December with a focus on updating safety and energy efficiency systems. Funding was awarded in 2020 by the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and the Community Development Block Grant.

Key safety and energy efficiency renovations include an improved fire alarm system, electrical improvements, high efficiency boilers, LED lighting, and a camera system for resident security.

“It’s huge for the residents, some of them have lived here for a decade or more.” Liz Reno, Senior Property Manager for Housing Management Resources said. For example, relative to the upgraded state-of-the-art boiler systems Reno said, “It’s going to add to their quality of life, reduce the cost of their utilities, and make their apartment more livable year-round.”

Crystal Rivera and her son in their home after renovations.
Crystal Rivera is a New South Street resident with four of her kids between the ages of 1 and 8 living with her. “My renovation has been smooth sailing. They put us in a great hotel that had a pool for my kids. We came home and everything was pretty much new and clean.”

And that is no small feat for an occupied rehab during Covid. It has been a major team effort to complete this project over the last four months. Henry General Contractors and Architecture EL make up the renovation team, and Housing Management Resources, our property management partner, has been critical to supporting residents through this tricky relocation process.

Reno discussed the challenges around organizing contractors during Covid. “Before they would have an all-hands-on-deck approach. Now it’s — these hands go this day and these hands get to go this day. It’s a little more trying to adhere to that construction schedule, and to keep everybody safe as well. You run into stuff. Time is money.”

Henry General Contractors deals with Covid supply chain challenges every day. “You used to be able to call and order cabinets three weeks out. Now they’re 16 weeks out. Lock sets are two months, three months out,” George Laws, Superintendent with Henry General Contractors said.

But it’s worth it. For someone like Rivera with small kids, she is so appreciative of the ground faulted electrical outlets and the window guards, both of which make her feel safer when her kids are playing. And the new flooring with treads on the stairs so there is no more slipping when the kids run up and down the stairs.

Changes of scope were common in this project as they went into the apartments and discovered new issues. In Rivera’s unit for example, the flooring was not part of the original scope, but once they got in there and started working, they could see that a new floor would be vital to the quality of life for Rivera and her kids.

Reno emphasized that this project is not only about the major upgrades, it is meaningful. “Every day I go home and I could tell you five different ways that I made big changes in peoples’ lives. And this is even bigger than that, these are huge changes in these residents’ lives.”