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New Holland Apartments: Historic, Affordable and Green

There has been a great deal of talk about the environment, sustainability, and “green” issues. When it comes to building design, many are saying it would be silly not to include sustainable environmental elements in this day and age. What about historic rehabilitation projects, though? In more progressive communities, redevelopment of historic buildings is considered hip and trendy. Original fixtures, vaulted ceilings, and the coolness and charm that often come with acquiring a unique, older space intrigue visionaries and creative types. But in smaller communities, more often than not, without the necessary resources at their fingertips, there is an impulse to do away with the old and build new — or worse, build nothing. This wasn’t the case for the New Holland Apartments, located at the cusp of downtown Danville.

The New Holland has an interesting history. Currently on the National Register of Historic Places, it is an ornate, five-story brick building with a strong feeling of Dutch Revival Architecture. The building is a stunning structure, evoked by complex roof forms, stepped gables, corbels, dormer and oriels. The first half of the building was completed in 1906, and the portion directly south was added in 1927. Back in its heyday, the building attracted a higher end population and contained 68 apartment units, four retail stores and a large ground-floor restaurant. In the 1980s, New Holland was renovated as affordable housing for low income families. In the early 1990s it received a $3,000,000 face lift, but its fate was quickly met with poor management by an out of state company. By 1996, tenants were vacated and the property was rapidly deteriorating and went into bankruptcy. According to the National Housing Trust, “it was a vacant eyesore when Crosspoint [Human Services] decided to pursue redeveloping it as affordable housing.”

Thom Pollock, Executive Director of Crosspoint Human Services, told a small group last summer how the project came to be: while driving near the building in 2000, he saw a notice that that the building was to be sold at an auction. With his curiosity piqued, but his schedule hectic, Pollock was not able to attend and feared he had missed out on a great opportunity. However, the forgotten building did not sell and was placed back on the auction block. Pollock’s vision was still in place and some months later, Crosspoint was able to acquire the building for just over $10,000.

Crosspoint Human Services, an organization committed to providing housing and treatment services to persons with mental illness and developmental disabilities, has a strong history of improving the lives of those in the community. Although Danville, in recent years, has been considered a mecca of affordable housing, a problem remained with the large amount of insufficient and substandard affordable housing for lower-income families. In the beginning, Crosspoint faced challenges in getting the multi-million dollar project off the ground. The City of Danville provided necessary pre-development funds in the amount of $35,000. This commitment from the city — after arguments that the building would have on-site management and be a quality housing facility — was imperative to seeking out funding for the innovative and historic project.

Renovating the building was a monumental task. Because the building was in such dire condition, the renovation process was able to take advantage of integrating new energy-saving technologies to lower the maintenance and utility costs. This dramatically improved the living environment for 47 one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. The technical innovation of the project was the integration of cutting-edge technology (GSHP) within an historic building. In addition to the GSHP system, the building received new replacement windows on the two facades that are not facing public streets. This has significantly improved the energy performance of the building over what would be seen if all the remaining windows were left in place. Restrictions in place by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, for historic reasons, meant that the windows on the two facades facing the public streets had to remain.

The project has been registered with the United States Green Building Council (USGBC), and initially sought certification under the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Rating System. Preliminary score sheets placed the project at LEED Silver level. In November 2007, New Holland received notification that its building had achieved LEED Gold Status. This rating system, developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, is a set of standards for environmentally sustainable construction and has grown to include over 14,000 projects around the world. There are six main areas that are addressed: (1) sustainable sites, (2) water efficiency, (3) energy and atmosphere, (4) materials and resources, (5) indoor environmental quality, and (6) innovation and design process. According to the U.S. Green Building Council site, LEED was created to accomplish the following:

  • Define “green building” by establishing a common standard of measurement
  • Promote integrated, whole-building design practices
  • Recognize environmental leadership in the building industry
  • Stimulate green competition
  • Raise consumer awareness of green building benefits
  • Transform the building market

The New Holland Apartments project proved that preserving affordable housing was not just cost efficient, but that in can also be inherently green. It took full advantage of of natural resources and energy originally used to produce the building and extended its life by remaining useful in present and future days.

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