Aigburth Vale, an affordable apartment complex for seniors set in a historic mansion in Towson, is wrapping up a $1.6 million, nearly one-year long renovation this month.
Bill Rubin, director of rental services for St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center, which owns Aigburth Vale located at 212 Aigburth Road, said the renovation will breathe new life into the facility for the next 15 to 20 years.
On a recent tour of the facility, property manager Mimi Kelly showed off renovations that are specifically designed with seniors in mind – cords they can pull to call 911 in an emergency, wheelchair and walker accessible kitchens and common areas to hold events and where residents can visit with one another.
The renovation also included upgrades to the roof, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, as well as the elevators and flooring, Rubin said. The entire building is now wheelchair accessible, Rubin said, a change required under Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards.
One feature that is key for residents, most of whom live alone, is the emergency cord system. If the cord is pulled, it automatically reaches 911 and informs operators which room the call came from. Then rooms are accessed with a master key, Kelly said.
The renovation also included installation of solar panels on the roof of the newer section of the building, which Rubin said are tied to a backup generator that will keep the lights on when the power goes out.
An exercise room designed for seniors was also added during renovations, Rubin said. Inside, there are three machines for exercises like pedaling, and a cluster of chairs are set up to be used for exercise classes, during which seniors can sit and work on upper body strength with small weights, Kelly said.
Nancy Protzman, a seven-year resident, said she is a "fan" of the exercise room and the classes offered there including yoga.
All units at Aigburth Vale, which serves seniors over the age of 62, are 100 percent affordable, Rubin said.
Its residents make 60 percent or less of the median income and pay rent that is affordable on that budget, he said. That means that the income of a single resident cannot exceed $39,900, and that person would pay around $900 in rent. Rent lowers based on income, he said.
The 70-unit complex, which consists of a historic mansion and a building that was built in 2000, also has 18 units filled under the Section 8 housing program. With a few people scheduled to move in this spring, the building will then be fully occupied.
Ronald Jenkins, 71, who has a Section 8 voucher and is trying to transfer from Baltimore City to Aigburth Vale this spring, said the freshly renovated facility is a "nice looking place." He was in Kelly's office filling out paperwork for the transfer.
Jenkins, who said he feels unsafe and surrounded by drug dealers in his Baltimore apartment, said he is looking forward to moving to Aigburth for some peace and quiet.
The renovations were paid for partially by refinancing the mortgage on the property as well as by securing grants and contracts related to Aigburth's role as a provider of affordable housing, Rubin said. Renovations began in January 2017, he said.
The county made the project possible by providing a loan and creating a PILOT program, or "payment in lieu of taxes," Rubin said. Under that program, passed by the County Council in 2016, the organization makes payments to the county instead of paying property taxes, helping to lower the overall bill.
"The renovation of this property not only upgraded one of Towson's most historic and distinctive buildings, but it improved the quality of housing for seniors, and the environment where they live," said County Councilman David Marks, who represents the area and is a supporter of the project.
Aigburth Vale was built in 1868 as a country home for wealthy actor John E. Owens, who was born in the Aigburth section of Liverpool, England.
The renovations also included improvements to the common areas, where Kelly said she organizes community events for occasions like St. Patrick's Day and Prince Harry's upcoming royal wedding in England.