Housing construction rarely starts in winter. But general contractor Roanoke Construction and the rest of the team behind Pagedale Town Center Homes were so eager to get started on the $12 million project that they jumped into action as soon as the deal closed on Nov. 3.

The timeline is just one more in a long list of unique characteristics for the project to build 36 new single-family affordable homes. Ten of the three- and four-bedroom homes will be adjacent to each other on the site of the former Lincoln School along Robbins Avenue. The other 26 will be distributed throughout the heart of Pagedale. They’re scheduled to be complete in early 2025.

All the homes have green building certification, are energy efficient, and utilize universal design elements, said Deb Dombar, Chief Operating Officer at Beyond Housing, which will develop, own, and manage the project. “We’ve been working here for more than a decade, and we wanted to create housing that was walkable to The Page so families can access the economic development that we’ve put into the community, from the small businesses in Carter Commons to entertainment options like the 24:1 Cinema.”

Pagedale Mayor Faye Millet couldn’t be more delighted that construction is underway. “Neighbors are eager to see the new homes, because they’ve been waiting a couple of years,” Millet said.

Dombar is likewise eager to move the project forward. “I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and this is the most difficult project I’ve ever worked on,” she said, citing everything from the COVID pandemic to supply chain issues to inflation driving up the cost of materials and labor.

Dombar said the two-year leadup to closing on Nov. 3 has been a testament to the resilience of Beyond Housing’s partners, who include Roanoke as well as Curtiss W. Byrne Architect LLC, David Mason + Associates for engineering, Midwest BankCentre providing federal and state equity, and BJC Healthcare as the permanent lender.

New partners

This is the 20th low-income housing tax credit project Beyond Housing has completed since 1988. Kevin Buchek, President of Roanoke Construction, worked on many of those with Beyond Housing at a previous employer. “This is the first of what we hope will be many partnerships between Roanoke and Beyond Housing,” he said. “It is a natural collaboration as both companies are headquartered in the 24:1 footprint and both are focused on building and developing quality affordable housing.”

Buchek grew up in Bel-Nor and located Roanoke’s headquarters in Normandy because he wants to see the 24:1 Community thrive. He’s also very committed to a high standard for minority- and women-owned business participation, currently projected at 22% and 7%, respectively.

Likewise, the Pagedale Town Center Homes marks the first time Midwest BankCentre has served as a state and federal equity partner for one of Beyond Housing’s projects, but the relationship between the two organizations dates back more than a decade, said Midwest BankCentre Executive Vice President Wes Burns.

Throughout the process, our North Star was the community impact this project has—because quality housing is an essential need for everyone within the St. Louis region.”

Wes Burns, Midwest BankCentre Executive Vice President

“Our partnering as the construction lender and also as the tax credit investor created efficiencies for Beyond Housing in both time and resources,” Burns said. “Throughout the process, our North Star was the community impact this project has—because quality housing is an essential need for everyone within the St. Louis region. It plays a critical role in the path to prosperity for individuals and families.”

Another new collaborator is BJC HealthCare, which is providing below-market, permanent financing.  “The ability for an individual to have a roof over their head is a critical component to overall health and well-being,” said Christopher Nolan, Director of Anchor Initiatives. “We need to address all of the health needs of those in our communities, which includes economics. BJC’s commitment to anchor investing exists to address the root causes of inequities in health outcomes – and that includes addressing the racial wage and wealth gap that we see in our region.”

Projects financed by low-income housing tax credits are notoriously complicated, and Dombar had high praise for BJC. “Their sticking with us through all the trials and tribulations is amazing. I tip my hat to their team,” she said.

Like Beyond Housing, BJC HealthCare’s community impact investing focuses on projects that take a comprehensive approach to overall health and well-being. Joseph Thomas, BJC vice president and chief investment officer explained that “BJC’s commitment to impact investing under the community health improvement umbrella includes everything from auto financing to entrepreneurship—because they address the root causes of inequities that lead to poor health outcomes. Our team is always open to new ideas of how our capital can help improve the health of our community.”

“These are neither easy nor quick projects or initiatives,” Nolan explained. “They take work. We didn’t make this investment in Pagedale for a quick engagement. This is life-changing work, and it takes time.”

A resurgence in Pagedale

No one knows about the long-term nature of transformation than Millet. Although she has been mayor for less than a year, she served as an alderman for 32 years and has been active in many other roles since moving to Pagedale 48 years ago.

“Pagedale is a strong community, and we’ve been networking and communicating and tapping resources for quite some time,” Millet said. In her case, this includes founding the Pagedale Athletic Club—which her three sons continue to support—to teach neighborhood youth to box in a structured setting so there would be fewer street fights.

“In the ring, they found out the little kid can be just as tough as the big kid,” Millet said.

She’s also involved in everything from community gardens to food pantries, and she’s passionate about creating good living conditions for children and fighting against derelict homes. “Some of the houses people are asking us to approve for occupancy are deplorable,” Millet said. “Some owners try to do repairs that aren’t up to code, and they think it’s OK. I can’t support that.”

We want a better community where people enjoy staying. I hope to see this city flourishing with beautiful homes that people can afford to live in.”

Pagedale Mayor Faye Millet

Millet is motivated by former Pagedale Mayor Mary Louise Carter, who passed away in 2020 (and for whom the Carter Commons economic development is named). “We want a better community where people enjoy staying. I hope to see this city flourishing with beautiful homes that people can afford to live in. It was Mayor Carter’s goal to upgrade this community and make people want to stay here.”

Beyond Housing CEO and President Chris Krehmeyer believes “this type of project causes neighbors to re-invest in their own homes and to become more confident about their area.” He explained that by using its Ask, Align, Act model, the nonprofit listened to the community about investing in a strategic and intentional way. “The community wanted these vacant lots to be turned into something productive and to create more housing opportunities in the long term.”

A closer look at the homes

Dombar said she is hoping the moderate weather holds so Roanoke can get a solid start on construction of the first phase of homes.

“The development will progress quickly once the concrete footings, foundations, and slabs are poured,” said Buchek. “The houses will be completed in phases, with the final phase being completed in the spring of 2025.”

Each of the 36 homes will be between 1,269 and 1,369 square feet and follow one of six plans—some two stories, some ranch-style, some with garages, some ADA-compliant. All will blend in with their neighborhoods, Dombar said.

Beyond Housing gathered feedback from the families in the 500-plus rental units it owns throughout North St. Louis County to better understand the amenities and design components that are important to residents. “When people think of affordable housing, they don’t think of the quality of home we put forth and how we’re constantly serving families,” Krehmeyer said.

The target population for the rental residences includes families headed by single females and those who meet the HUD definition of homeless. Rent will range from $400 to $775, which Dombar described as “very favorable,” and families will need to meet income and other requirements in order to qualify.

Residents will be eligible for Beyond Housing’s suite of holistic services, which includes financial advising, support from health care liaisons, family engagement at school, and more.”

“We’ve already had interest from people who saw the project’s signage,” Dombar said. “Families can contact us about eligibility to live in these homes. We would love to get families to move in, stay here, utilize our suite of holistic services, and then, if they choose, to buy that home one day. It’s all about creating a stable, sustainable community.”

After the initial 15-year compliance period as affordable rental housing, the renters will be able to start the process to purchase their homes if they choose. The project also includes an additional 15-year extended use period, for a total of 30 years of the housing being designated as affordable housing.

“We really want to think about what people’s aspirations and goals are long term, instead of just their immediate concerns,” Dombar said.

This commitment resonated with all the project partners. For example, the family-owned Midwest BankCentre believes that “quality housing is an essential need for everyone in the entire region,” Burns said. “It is an extremely important determinant of health and well-being.”

“Our commitment to North County is not new,” Burns continued. “We’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of our bank branch opening in Pagedale in partnership with Beyond Housing even back then. We have a strong belief that to move our region forward economically, all communities must have access to the essentials, and that includes financial services.”

Burns said he grew up in a small community where a third of the population lives below the poverty line but, like Pagedale, it’s a community with strong ties that’s worth celebrating. “When we see a community like Pagedale achieve success, it’s a ripple effect that positively impacts all of us,” Burns said. “We cannot operate in silos, and I greatly appreciate Beyond Housing’s partnership.”