One week into December residents of a low income, senior citizen apartment building at the foot of the University of Alabama campus in Tuscaloosa received heartbreaking news. They would lose their homes unless a plan for a new sprinkler system for the 13-story building, required by the current fire code, was in place by January 3rd. The 35-year old building had sustained four fires already that year. The last one sent two people to the hospital. But there was no money for the new system, and nowhere else for many of the residents to go. Then, a local developer offered to help.
Clara Verner Tower is the largest single low-income elderly housing facility in Tuscaloosa County. The building had never been renovated, and years of neglect had taken a toll on the 1972 structure. When we were asked to serve as construction manager, the exact scope of work was largely unknown. So, the owner charged us instead with achieving an end result: make Clara Verner a place the residents and our community are proud of. We had nine months to do so, while the building remained at almost full occupancy, or the owner would forfeit the low-income housing tax credits used to finance the renovation.
Working with the residents, we achieved our goal, completely renovating the 145,423 square-foot tower, including all 200 apartments, all common areas, administrative offices, as well as the facility’s landscaping and hardscaping, on time.