Built in 1999, Pablo Davis Elder Living Center was the first senior center in southwest Detroit. Owned and operated by the nonprofit organization Bridging Communities, the facility houses 80 under-resourced renters and has become a fixture in the community.
While in strong physical condition, the property was struggling financially when it came to the end of its 15-year compliance period under the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program. In reapplying for LIHTC, Bridging Communities and building owner Phyllis Edwards realized they could use this opportunity to add energy efficiency retrofits and on-site renewable energy generation to improve the resiliency of the building structure as well as its financial footing. The Detroit office of Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) supplied a grant for Elevate Energy to conduct an energy analysis on the building, which revealed there were several measures Pablo Davis could implement to save money and improve the quality of the building. Owen Derry, the project’s financial advisor, was able to utilize these potential financial savings to leverage loans that made the upgrades possible.
The renovations were recently completed. All 80 units received new appliances, windows, doors and lighting. The facility’s common areas were also upgraded with a new heating and cooling system, a new backup generator and rooftop solar. Together, these upgrades decreased the building’s energy use intensity by 30%. The facility’s Energy Star® Score jumped from 42 to 80, meaning it’s more efficient than 80% of similar buildings. Importantly, the upgrades meant the under-resourced renters were paying less for their utilities. The efficiency upgrades mitigated the increases in electric and gas rates, saving residents $8,000 annually, collectively, on their energy bills.
In addition to the grant from LISC and the energy audit from Elevate, Owen had to pull together multiple funding streams, like housing vouchers from the Detroit Housing Commission, a construction loan from Chase Bank, debt forgiveness from the city of Detroit, a permanent loan from Cinnaire Investment Corporation and tax credit equity from the solar panels and LIHTC. Even though the process was complicated, Phyllis is proud she improved the building while maintaining its affordability.
Ultimately, the energy assessment estimated the energy upgrades could help the building save $35,000 in its first year. That proved to be true, with the building saving $34,000 in utility costs in 2020. Pablo Davis is in better shape financially and can serve folks in southwest Detroit for years to come. Owen cites the energy assessment as one of the linchpins to making this project successful: “It’s a small thing, but if you get enough of these small things together you can start solving some big problems."
“It’s a small thing, but if you get enough of these small things together you can start solving some big problems." - Owen Derry, Pablo Davis' financial advisor
MEEA helped our partners in the Michigan Energy Efficiency For All coalition to showcase Pablo Davis’ story. Check out these pieces highlighting the stories of those who helped make this project possible: