Akron is planning to spend more than $38 million acquiring the Mayflower, refurbishing the historic downtown apartment building and relocating residents.
The money would come from a combination of sources, including a $14.6 million federal housing loan that the city says is key to making the project happen.
Akron City Council approved legislation Monday allowing the city to seek the federal loan, a vote that had been delayed for about a month because of concerns raised by many of the Mayflower’s 250 residents. The city isn’t expecting to hear if it got the loan for six months and the residents, who are low-income, disabled or senior citizens, wouldn’t need to move for at least 18 months.
“This building is an important part of our downtown and our history,” said Councilman Jeff Fusco, who chairs the Planning Committee.
The vote was 11-1, with Councilman Ken Jones, whose ward includes the Mayflower, as the lone no vote. Councilwoman Linda Omobien was ill and wasn’t at the meeting.
“It’s not clear to the people right now,” Jones said of the plans. “If it’s not clear for them, it’s not clear for me.”
Akron’s application for a Department of Housing and Urban Development Section 108 loan sheds more light on the city’s plans for the Mayflower, located in a prime downtown spot at 263 S. Main St., across from Canal Park stadium. Details include:
• Plans: Akron wants to buy the 233-unit, 16-story building, relocate the residents and begin the renovation of the building. The city then hopes to sell the partially renovated 1931 building to a developer who will complete the refurbishment and “restore the property to a mixed use development of office, retail, and/or housing.”
• Funding: The total project is expected to cost $38,456,000. The money will come from the federal loan ($14,598,000), historic tax credits equity ($11,100,000), Tax Increment Financing or TIF ($5,067,000), and the EB-5 Immigrant Investor initiative ($7,691,000). This would be the first time Akron would use EB-5, a little-known funding option that has been used in Cleveland and allows foreigners who invest in U.S. companies and building projects to get conditional visas on the path to citizenship.
• Spending: Acquisition ($8 million), renovations ($25,656,000), transition period subsidy ($3,300,000), and relocation ($1,500,000).
• Repayment: The federal loan would be for 20 years. The city would pay for the loan “from cash flow available from debt service from the sale and/or leasing” of the Mayflower.
• Consultant: Akron plans to hire a consultant to “develop a Relocation Plan and Relocation Assistance for the residents of Mayflower Manor.”
• Jobs: The city expects 292 new jobs to be created by the redeveloped site.
The city’s loan application says the Mayflower is “currently under-utilized as low-income housing” and redeveloping the building “would significantly enhance the downtown environment.”
Several Mayflower residents spoke against the city’s plan to take over the building Monday night, saying they don’t want to leave. They said it’s a safe and affordable place to live with easy access to public transportation.
“I don’t wish to move away from downtown Akron,” said Rebecca Elrod, who has lived at the Mayflower for 10 years and said she planned to remain there until she got married or died. “I feel like it’s my home.”
Resident Angella Fawn asked why the city plans to move residents out when renovations begin when residents have been able to stay in other housing developments while they were being refurbished. If the current Mayflower residents aren’t permitted to move back after the building is redone, she said her question will be, “Is this just because Akron doesn’t want low-rent people in downtown?”
Vouchers for residents
Several council members requested that the administration brief them as the process moves forward, including on the status of the loan application and of vouchers for Mayflower residents that they will be able to use for new housing.
Councilman Mike Williams said the vouchers typically have time limits and the city should make sure residents are given the maximum amount of time to find new housing.
“It’s a difficult transition,” Williams said.
Planning Director Marco Sommerville said some Mayflower residents might be eligible for assistance from the city for a down payment on a house.
“We will not close it down until everybody has a place to stay,” he said. “So, nobody’s homeless.”
Akron won’t be taking any steps until the city finds out if the HUD loan has been approved. If the loan goes through, Akron will begin relocation interviews with residents to determine their needs and assist them in finding appropriate housing, said Helen Tomic, the city’s comprehensive planning manager.
City officials emphasized that residents who want the city’s assistance with their relocation needs should stay put.
“Don’t move,” advised Tomic. “If they get scared and start moving, they will lose out on the benefits.”