Hawthorne owners finalize plans for apartment renovations

By Mike Genet mike.genet@examiner.net
The Examiner

Hawthorne Place Apartments in northeast Independence could see the start of $30 million in renovations – all 745 units – as early as this week.

Preservation of Affordable Housing, which owns the complex, finalized a financing deal earlier this month. Planning has been underway for nearly two years.

Each of the more than 700 units at Hawthorne Place Apartments near U.S. 24 and Missouri 291 in Indpendence is scheduled for upgrades such as upgraded kitchens and bathrooms as well as energy efficiency improvements.

Hawthorne has more than 1,700 residents among its 29 buildings.

POAH President/CEO Aaron Gornstein said, and the project will be finished by the end of 2022.

POAH’s financial partner companies will buy the federal tax-exempt bonds to fund the project, and the city of Independence has no liability.

“The last year has been more intense; it takes time to line up the financing,” Gornstein said last week. “We’re mobilizing on the site now,  and we plan for work to start on vacant units next week.

“There hasn’t been a substantial renovation at the property for many, many years. We’ve been investing and maintaining them.”

Some apartments will get upgraded kitchens and bathrooms, and some will have new more-energy efficient HVAC systems that ideally will save residents money. All units will get new entry and closet doors, and 13 apartments will be adapted for full ADA compliance. All of Hawthorne’s units north of U.S. 24 will get new siding and windows.

Also on the checklist: the Stanley Community Center, where the Community Services League operates its Hawthorne branch office, will also be expanded, Landscaping, playgrounds and walkways will be spruced up or replaced.

“Those are all going to make a huge difference for the residents, and it’s great for the environment,” Gornstein said. “We’re just really excited to get started, and it’s been an extensive planning process. It’s going to be a great outcome.”

In a few cases, a resident might have to be relocated on-site for a couple days, such as with new flooring, but POAH plans to help with packing in such instances. Most times, though, workers will be in and out over the course of a day or two. 

POAH owns about 12,000 affordable-housing units among 120 properties around the country, and Gornstein said the company and its contractors are well versed in fixing up occupied apartments.

“We’ve done a lot of occupied rehab, as we call it,” he said. “The residents leave for the day, and the workers are out of the apartment when they get home. We work with the tenants and make sure the best time to do that, and meet all the needs that they have, working with the property management team.

“We’ve done this work all around the country, and we try to be as efficient and least disruptive as possible.”

Hawthorne and the city just finalized a police service agreement, in which the complex pays for one of two IPD officers on site during the week. Hawthorne also pays for two off-duty officers to monitor the grounds. Gornstein said the city has been helpful taking a preventive approach on crime there.

“It’s one of our strongest partnerships we have in the country,” he said. “I would even say it’s a model partnership.”

“The city of Independence is proud to work with POAH as part of our community and looks forward to the positive impact these updates will provide,” Independence Mayor Eileen Weir said in a release. “The local, state and federal collaborations that make these renovations also make a variety of supportive services to ensure Hawthorne residents and families have the tools they need to be successful such as a college savings program, financial education and more.”