A new mixed-use affordable housing development named in honor of late Mayor James Holley III opened its doors in downtown Portsmouth, Virginia, this past summer, helping to meet the critical need for affordable housing at a time when the country continues to grapple with rising housing costs fueled by inflation and climbing interest rates. In recognition of this consequential project, the Holley Pointe apartments earned a 2023 CoStar Impact Award for multifamily development of the year in Hampton Roads, as judged by a panel of local industry professionals.

Woda Cooper Cos. held a ribbon-cutting ceremony in August for Holley Pointe, a 50-unit project with street-level commercial space located at the corner of Effingham and County streets. A Columbus, Ohio-based outfit that touts itself as the first employee-owned, vertically-integrated affordable real estate company, Woda developed Holley Pointe to help fill the gap in affordable housing for workforce families, singles and seniors in the area, providing housing for those who earn 30% to 80% of area median income.

“With the country’s inflation rates at an all-time high and the economy still reeling from the impact of COVID-19, affordable housing is even more critical today than in the past," Portsmouth Mayor Shannon Glover said at the August ribbon-cutting ceremony. "Not only does it provide a roof over the heads of its tenants, but decent affordable housing creates pride in one’s community, reduces stress and promotes healthy living."

Affordable housing can also serve as an economic driver because it can help and retain employees, Glover added. "It’s a great selling point for recruiting new employers to Portsmouth."

Virginia Housing allocated Low-Income Housing Tax Credits to support financing for the Hooker DeJong Architecture-designed project. Wells Fargo invested in the tax credits in exchange for equity financing and also provided a construction loan. Cedar Rapids Bank & Trust was the lender for the permanent debt.

“Families and also retired seniors on fixed incomes will benefit by having housing available that is affordable and convenient for jobs, services and leisure activities in the downtown Portsmouth neighborhood,” Bruce LaLonde, chair of the Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Authority, said in August.

About the project: Currently fully leased, the four-story Holley Pointe building consists of two- and three-bedroom apartments with rents that run from $350 to $1,135 per month, depending on the size of the unit and income restriction. Residents pay low monthly utility bills due to the building's sustainability features, including energy-efficient kitchens, heating-cooling systems, windows and water-saving bathroom fixtures. Property amenities include a kitchen, library, laundry, fitness room and park areas. In addition to apartments, the building includes 6,500 square feet of street-level retail space. Holley Pointe was named in honor of the late Mayor Dr. James Holley III, the city's first Black mayor and its longest-serving mayor, who is credited for his hand in the development of Portsmouth's downtown waterfront area.

What the judges said: "Impact and growth seem to be large factors into selecting this location for an affordable housing project," said Bobby Beasley III, a vice president of industrial sales and leasing at Harvey Lindsay Commercial Real Estate. "The narrative successfully illustrates the demand for affordable housing and to help support businesses on that side of the tunnels."

"I felt the Holley Pointe development in Portsmouth was impactful by offering new affordable safe housing to residents in a world of escalating rents," added John Duffy, a vice president at Cushman & Wakefield | Thalhimer.

They made it happen: Woda Cooper Cos. developed and owns the building. Hooker DeJong Architecture designed the project, while Woda Construction served as the general contractor. Hoggard-Eure Associates was the civil engineer, and Speight Marshall Francis was the structural engineer. Virginia Housing allocated Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. Wells Fargo invested in the tax credits in exchange for equity financing and also provided a construction loan. Cedar Rapids Bank & Trust was the lender for the permanent debt. Woda's management arm oversees Holley Pointe's day-to-day operations.