Addressing a growing need for building-wide repairs and major capital improvements, the Board of Directors of the Associated Blind Housing Development Fund (Associated Blind HDFC) Corporation is planning a major renovation to the individual residences and common areas of Selis Manor, located at 135 West 23rd Street in the Chelsea section of Manhattan.
Built with funding by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the 14-story Selis Manor opened in 1980 as housing for two hundred visually impaired and physically disabled tenants, their families and service dogs. In addition to the residences, which were designed with special features to address the tenants’ special needs, the building also contains amenities available to all residents, including an auditorium, bowling alley, roof garden, fitness room, library, snack bar and a radio station.
Residents at Selis Manor are supported by HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher Program, also known as Section 8, which is the federal government’s major program for assisting very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to afford quality housing in the private market. Under this program, tenants are required to pay 30 percent of their monthly income for rent and utilities while HUD subsidizes the balance. As a requirement for HUD subsidy, the building and individual dwellings must undergo stringent annual inspections, to ensure that they meet an acceptable level of health and safety.
Associated Blind HDFC also provides substantial in-kind space to VISIONS at Selis Manor, a not-for-profit organization that provides services for 3,500 visually impaired persons annually, including the tenants of Selis Manor. VISIONS has been provided with space in the building’s lobby and basement at no charge, which houses an adapted computer center, multiple classrooms and office space — allowing for a full range of classes and services for youth, adults and seniors who are visually impaired.
Currently estimated to begin in spring 2013, the renovation project is expected be comprehensive, with repair or replacement of nearly all of the building’s major systems, including mechanical, plumbing, electrical, heating & HVAC, life & fire safety, and the elevators. Plans also include an overhaul of the lobby to ensure tighter security and better traffic flow, relocation of the laundry room to ensure easier access, and the complete renovation of kitchen and bathrooms in every apartment. VISIONS will also benefit from the renovation, with the addition of a separate entrance for the non-resident community members they serve.
To ensure that the renovations occur in the safest, most expedient, and least disruptive manner possible, Associated Blind HDFC will arrange for temporary living spaces for every tenant on a rotating basis. Currently in the planning stages, the relocation plan will incorporate vacant apartments within the building as well as external spaces, and will likely include cash reimbursement for tenants who choose to temporarily stay with friends or family members.
With a strong commitment to sustainable building and energy efficient practices, Associated Blind HDFC will be looking to ensure that the renovation project is as “green” as possible, incorporating alternative materials and state-of-the-art energy efficiency measures.