Renovation coming to Hawthorne Apartments

Mike Genet

The owner of Hawthorne Place Apartments, home to 2,700 people in northeast Independence, has a $43 million plan to renovate the housing complex’s 745 apartment units.

All apartments would get new heating-and-cooling systems – saving residents money – as well as new cabinets and countertops and new bathroom fixtures, among other improvements.

The Independence Development Authority this week approved Preservation of Affordable Housing’s intent to issue tax-exempt housing revenue bonds to finance the project, which could start by the end of the year and last up to two years.

POAH’s financial partner companies would purchase the bonds, and the city of Independence has no liability.

Bill Moore, counsel for the Development Authority, said POAH still must seek the authority’s final approval later in the summer for the bonds, but this week’s approval was unanimous. The project does not require approval from the City Council.

Kevin Baptista, vice president of asset management for POAH, said the company drew up renovation plans before the pandemic, and Hawthorne’s last major renovation came after POAH bought the complex in 2001.

With this renovation project, all apartments would receive new cabinets and countertops, some new flooring, new bathroom fixtures and new HVAC systems. Some apartments would be adapted to full ADA compliance, and Hawthorne’s units north of U.S. 24 would get new siding. Roanoke Construction, out of St. Louis, and subcontractors from around the metro area plan to have three crews working simultaneously around the complex.

Baptista said no resident will have to relocate off site for any renovation work, though in cases with new flooring, some residents would be temporarily relocated on site. Work such as cabinets, countertops and bathroom fixtures can take just a couple hours, and POAH will help residents with any short-term packing they might need to do.

For most apartment units, work will take just two or three days, he said.

“We provide packing material for them, but primarily they don’t have to move out,” Baptista said.

The new HVAC systems will be more energy efficient, Baptista said – and thus helpful to residents’ pocketbooks.

“Very much so,” he said.

Baptista acknowledged that POAH has considered buying the former QuikTrip property near the Hawthorne entrance off U.S. 24, but there’s nothing set, and no bonds would go toward that.

“We’re looking at several options,” he said. “We do need additional office space, and community space for residents. It would not be a commercial enterprise.”

Hawthorne Apartments was built in the late 1960s, and the 72-acre complex boasts about 98 percent occupancy, Baptista said. Hawthorne’s apartments are in 129 buildings and house about 2,700 residents, and the complex also includes a Community Services League office.

The apartment complex is up to code, Baptista said, but is due for a spruce-up.

“This is just replacing aging stuff,” he said. “It was rehabbed in 2001, and there’s kind of a cycle for that. That’s what we’re doing here.”

The Industrial Development Authority was formed in the 1970s, Moore said, and while members are appointed by the City Council, it is an autonomous group and not an advisory board or commission for the council. It meets very irregularly, he said, only when a project gets presented that under federal law requires a public hearing.

“The last one approved was Heritage House (renovations) a few years ago,” Moore said.