The Washington Heights Citizen & The Inwood News | January 28, 1992
The elegantly curved former Rio Vista Hotel on lower Fort Washington Avenue has been reclaimed from abandonment, and will now provide apartments for 100 homeless and low-income people.
Once a boarded up eyesore in the neighborhood, the Rio’s handsome facade of yellow brick and stone ornamentation
have been scrubbee clean, causing it to stand out in a neighborhood of graffitied apartment buildings.
Inside. the gutted building has been transformed into a bright and cheerful environment of apartments, community
rooms, support services and even a penthouse for needy tenants.
The Rio, a four-floor building located where Fort Washington Avenue curves to join Broadway, j’ust north of 158 Street, is now a brighter spot in an otherwise drab neighborhood of graffitied, over-crowded apartment buildings in lower Washington Heights.
The renovation was sponsored by a group of non-profit organizations, including the Community Service Society (CSS), the Committee for the Heights-Inwood Homeless, Broadway Housing Development Fund and Columbia University Community Services.
The 82 units in the building cost approximately $37,000 each to build, according to Haniette Epstein, a spokesperson for the CSS.
The Rio will provide family apartments – seven two-bedroom units, in addition to 75 studios for singles.
“The conversion of the Rio from an abandoned building into a real home for so many needy individuals
is a message to New Yorkers who often despair of the problems facing the city,” said CSS President David R. Jones. “The Rio proves that we can provide decent, permanent housing for the homeless, shelter that will restore their sense of dignity and allow them to get on with their lives.”
“The tenants in all our buildings are racially and culturally integrated, including the young and elderly, disabled and healthy, dependent and working men and women,” said Ellen Baxter, CSS Director of Supported Housing, who manages the sites.
“Our success relies on tenants who assume full responsibility for the building when no management or service staff are present. The project demonstrates a simple and cost-effective approach to housing; stability, opportunity and respect are fundamental,” Baxter added.
Besides the Rio, buildings in Washington Heights renovated and managedby the consortium include:
TheHeights, at 530 West 178 Street; the Stella, 575 W 155 Street; the Abraham, 345 Edgecomb Avenue; and the Bliebtreu, 407 West 145 St.
The Rio’s two primary capital financing sources are the New York City Department of Housing Preservation & Development SRO Loan Program, which provided $3 million, and the National Equity Fund, sponsor of the low income tax credit syndication.
On-site social services are made available to Rio tenants by Columbia University Community Services under contract to the city’s Department of Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Alcoholism Services. Tenants themselves will run a 24-hour security patrol and provide support services during the weekend and evening hours.
A striking building with a curved facade in elaborate cast stonework, the Rio also has a penthouse level. Located there is a roof deck, a tenant lounge and offices for management and service. Designed by the architectural firm of Becker and Becker Associates, the building is fully accessible to the handicapped.
The community Service Society is a social services and advocacy agency founded in New York City 150 years ago. For information about the Rio project, call 614-5523.