A $7.3 million renovation in two Catholic Charities’ buildings will provide older adults in affordable housing with a variety of upgrades by next summer. The multi-year effort at the connected properties – DePaul House and St. Joachim House – includes new windows, doors and heating-and-cooling systems in every unit, upgraded community kitchens, better accessibility in parking lots and walkways, and more.

“We’re pretty excited, and everything is proceeding nicely,” said Mary Choplick, director of Catholic Charities Senior Communities.

The two buildings together include 199 rent-assisted one- and two-bedroom apartments for older adults who can live independently or with  supportive services. During this “in-place” renovation, residents in designated areas leave their apartments during the day and return in the evening as the work winds down. The renovations should be finished by June 2022.

Enjoying the excitement

Overall, residents have been accommodating and pleased with the process, Choplick said. Through months of communication before the renovations started and multiple communications  since the work began, they have been fully informed as the work took shape and the project launched.

“Generally speaking, they’ve been great,” Choplick said. “They like to see the excitement going on around them, and they like to see the weekly result.”

Catholic Charities brought in relocation specialist Housing Opportunities Unlimited to coordinate the process for residents. Through daily communications, Housing Opportunities Unlimited ensures the right apartments – up to 70 each day – are packed up and ready for the construction crews. This can include, for example, making sure that a closet is fully emptied before the door is replaced, or moving furniture and belongings away from the HVAC system before a new one is installed.

Long time coming

Catholic Charities first began considering changes at DePaul House in 2019, exploring whether refinancing the building could provide the funding needed for renovations in the building erected in 1983. As conversations deepened with lenders and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the organization tied together both buildings – St. Joachim was built in the 1920s and last renovated in 1995 – in an innovative, first-ever lending structure that combined the two properties and allowed for more comprehensive changes.

While some of the renovations were consistent across the properties, others were unique to the building’s needs. St. Joachim House will receive a new roof, for example, and contractors will reline hot-water pipes in DePaul House. Some of the items on the renovation list were determined by shifts in federal guidelines around accessibility and other concerns.

“We started with our own internal wish list, and we took it from there,” Choplick said.

The renovation could have started sooner, but the desire to keep residents in their homes during the renovation was important – and complicated by safety precautions related to COVID-19. Choplick said Catholic Charities considered temporarily relocating residents, before deciding to pause the renovation instead.

“We said we’re going to hit the pause button and hope that by September 2021, we would be in a better place – which we were,” she said.