SARATOGA SPRINGS — Work on a new affordable housing project will begin as early as the spring at the site of the former Saratoga Diner on South Broadway.
The Link@SoBro will rise four stories and encompass 110 apartments — both one- and two-bedroom units.
Mayor Joanne Yepsen said that, for the past three years, she has been working on the project with the property owner, Peter Kodogiannis, whose family ran the diner for 40 years.
"He said his family wanted to continue their legacy in Saratoga Springs by fulfilling a need in the city," she said. "He asked what the biggest problem was in the city, and I said affordable housing."
Yepsen said she came to that conclusion following a needs assessment conducted last year by the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority, with financial support from the city.
"The assessment identified there was a gap between Section 8 housing and market-value housing, which is a huge gap to fill," she said. "Link@)SoBro is one solution to the problem."
Average rents in Saratoga Springs, according to Rent Jungle, an online search engine for rental housing, is $1,520 for a one-bedroom and $1,990 for a two-bedroom apartment.
Bill Teator, of DEW Ventures, is the community partner with the Link@SoBro project developer, Indianapolis-based KCG Development. He said a majority of the new units will be rented for between $900 and $1,600 per month.
Teator added that the $30 million development is geared toward young professionals and empty-nesters making $35,000 to $97,000 a year.
"We recognized there was a gap in workforce housing, and we were pricing people out who live and work in the city," he said. "We also wanted to provide a connection between downtown and the assets on South Broadway."
The 150,000-square-foot development will also include at least 35,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor and a second-floor incubator space for small-business startups.
"The frontage is a wonderful place to reactivate ground-level retail, which will hopefully include food and beverage," he said. "The second story lends itself to a creative collision of current professionals and resource providers, which could spawn the next great business decision-makers."
Amenities for residents of the Link@SoBro include covered parking, secured-access entry, a community room, fitness center and in-unit laundry.
Fourteen of the 110 units will be designated for veterans, thanks to a housing task force Yepsen put together in 2015, following an initiative by former first lady Michelle Obama to end homelessness among veterans.
Cheryl Hage-Perez, chairwoman of the housing task force and executive director of the Veterans and Community Housing Coalition, said that, while housing was found for all 18 identified homeless veterans in the city, that housing was outside of Saratoga Springs.
"We weren't able to house any of them in the city because of the high rents," she said. "We started looking deeper into the situation in Saratoga Springs for homeless and workforce housing."
Hage-Perez said that, after the needs assessment was conducted by the Saratoga Springs Housing Authority, it was shared with developers, and KCG Development was the first to respond.
"They were willing to work with us to bring the housing that we need to the city," she said. "It was the first opportunity for us to house veterans in the city at a rent they could afford."
The Link@SoBro will have a significant impact, Hage-Perez said.
"It will meet the needs of current residents for affordable housing, provide housing for veterans, and the commercial space will create jobs, sales tax and other revenue for the city," she said. "It will also take a blighted site and create a beautiful entryway into the city."
Teator said that, while construction for the 3-acre project could begin as early as the spring, it would certainly start by the end of the summer.
"Construction will take 15 to 16 months, so you won't see occupants until very late 2019 or early 2020," he said.
Teator added: "We hope the project identifies new opportunities for growth and continues to attract significant investment to the city."
Photos: Provided artist renderings