Biltmore Towers is looking $20M better; ‘saving grace’ to residents

The Biltmore Towers was in bad shape just a few years ago, but local leaders say a $20 million renovation has ensured the large downtown building will provide high-quality affordable senior housing for a long time to come.

“This is not just affordable housing — this is respectable housing,” U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, said at a ribbon-cutting event this week at the downtown apartment building celebrating the renovation.

The 17-story building on the 200 block of North Main Street opened as a hotel 93 years ago, but it has offered affordable housing since 1981, said Tim Bete, president of St. Mary Development Corp.

The units at the Biltmore are for people 55 and older, and the building is a senior Section 8 property with rents subsidized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The 230-unit apartment tower had fallen on hard times, and some areas, like the upstairs lobby, were closed off because of deterioration and safety issues. Some residents said their apartments definitely were showing their age.

But the property was sold a couple of years ago, and Related Affordable started renovating the property jointly with St. Mary Development Corp., as well as with support from other partners.

Related Affordable is the development and operational partner. St. Mary’s is the general partner.

St. Mary already was coordinating services at the property, helping connect residents to health care, utility assistance, food programs and transportation, Bete said.

Every apartment unit got a full renovation, including kitchens and bathrooms, and common areas and community spaces were updated.

The building now has a fitness center, offices, a salon and education and clinic spaces, which will offer health care services.

Before Related Affordable came along, the building was at risk of closure, largely because the prior landlord was not keeping up with maintenance issues, said Wes Young, executive vice president of St. Mary Development Corp.

“We’re going to continue to do everything we can to provide a great place for people to live,” said David Pearson, executive vice president of Related Affordable.

Ruth Maxwell, 92, has lived in the Biltmore for 21 years, and her children, now in their 60s, also reside in the building.

Maxwell said her apartment has been fixed up, and new appliances have been installed.

She said her unit and the building have been refreshed.

“It looks a lot better than it did,” she said.

Maxwell said she likes the Biltmore because it is conveniently located downtown, within walking distance of many shops, and it also sits along the bus line.

Maxwell said her rent is based on her income.

James Clevell, a former Clark County Sheriff’s sergeant who is visually impaired, said he went searching for new housing because his impairment means he needs around-the-clock assistance.

He said various housing facilities he spoke to would not provide all of the assistance he requires.

Also, he said he was told his insurance would pay for his housing, but he would need to fork over his retirement check as payment, and he would only receive a small monthly stipend, which he said was insulting and demeaning.

“I consider the Biltmore Towers to be a saving grace,” he said, adding that living at the tower means he can keep 70% of his income. “I don’t believe you can find a facility anywhere that can offer any better living conditions in your retirement or, in case of disability, your years where you need assistance.”

The renovation project was made possible by millions of dollars of tax credits, tax-exempt bonds and financing arranged by KeyBank and historic tax credits from legislation that Rep. Turner sponsored, officials said.

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