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HomeNewsLocal newsGround Broken On 90-More Energy-Efficient Homes At Louis E. Brown Villas

Ground Broken On 90-More Energy-Efficient Homes At Louis E. Brown Villas

The Louis E. Brown Villas at the opening of the second group of apartments in 2013 (Bill Kossler photo)
The Louis E. Brown Villas at the opening of the second group of apartments in 2013 (Bill Kossler photo)

Contractors McCormack Baron Salazar and V.I. government officials ceremoniously broke ground on 90 new family apartments on Aug. 24, beginning the third and final phase in the new affordable housing community on St. Croix.

There will be 22 one-bedroom, 46 two-bedroom and 22 three-bedroom apartments. Families will be able to rent apartments by qualifying under VIHA’s Housing Choice Voucher Program for a project-based voucher. The $33.4 million development, designed by Steven E. Hutchins Architects, complements the style of the first and second phases of Louis E. Brown with balconies, courtyards, and climate-appropriate landscaping.

The new Brown Villas replace an older public housing community of the same name, built in 1970, that was severely damaged by Hurricane Hugo in 1989, then again by Hurricane Marilyn in 1995. They are the first new public housing units to open on St. Croix in more than two decades.

“This ground-breaking signals a major success in terms of public-private collaborations, but, more significantly, progress in expanding the quality of affordable, safe, available housing for low-income residents on St. Croix,” Housing Authority Board Chair Noreen Michael said in a statement.

“Every resident, regardless of socio-economic status, deserves the quality of housing that is being made available through Phase III of the Louis E. Brown Villas Project,”she said.

The housing is available to local residents earning 60 percent of the area median income or less, which is $18,660 or less on St. Croix.

Interior of one of the Louis E. Brown Villas  the opening of the second group of apartments in 2013 (Bill Kossler photo)
Interior of one of the Louis E. Brown Villas the opening of the second group of apartments in 2013 (Bill Kossler photo)

The Louis E. Brown Villas Redevelopment Project effort is the largest ever undertaken by the Virgin Islands Housing Authority and overcame several challenges. These challenges are being addressed through mitigating high water and electricity costs through solar energy, solar water heating and water reuse, using resilient building techniques to diminish the threat from storms, and engaging local expertise to handle the logistics of obtaining raw materials and constructing with Caribbean style and colors.

The first phase, which opened in 2011, had 100 new, energy-efficient apartments with solar water heaters, low-flow water faucets and rainwater-collecting cisterns. The second phase of the project included a senior building with 36 one-bedroom units and four two-bedroom units. The redevelopment plan will ultimately create 244 one- to three-bedroom units for families and seniors, all with energy-efficient appliances.

“McCormack Baron Salazar, the Virgin Islands Housing Authority and the entire financing team is a prime example of public-private-community partnership at its best,” said Vince Bennett, president of McCormack Baron Salazar. “Louis E. Brown is a living example of how to build a resilient, sustainable affordable community that can remain beautiful, affordable, and desirable long into the future.”

The neighborhood will also include a 4,500-plus square foot clubhouse facility containing the management and leasing offices, maintenance facility, library, computer and business center, exercise room, two very large educational and meeting room spaces, and an outdoor seating area. A separate laundry facility building is centrally located for walking access.

“The goal of this effort is to bring attractive, resilient housing options to low-income St. Croix residents. Faced with many challenges, not the least of which were the high costs of building materials and how to curtail high utility costs, the VIHA/McCormack Baron team has and will continue to be dedicated to achieving that goal.” Senior Vice President of McCormack Baron Salazar Meg Manley said.

Louis E. Brown Villas Phase III was financed through equity generated from low income housing tax credits provided by the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority. Wells Fargo provided the equity as well as construction financing, and the Virgin Islands Housing Authority was the lender for predevelopment and land acquisition funding. Steven E. Hutchins Architects, Inc. is the architect-of-record and J. Benton Construction is the local general contractor. Full occupancy is anticipated by the end of June 2019.

Louis E. Brown, for whom the villas are named, was a St. Croix native who served in several high-level posts in the V.I. government, including as commissioner of Agriculture and Labor. Born in 1917, Brown served in World War II before returning home and pursuing a career in public service. He died in 1972.

McCormack Baron Salazar has developed more than 21,000 units of housing in 45 markets totaling more than $3.7 billion in development investment, according to the company, which is headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, with satellite offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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