|Redding Bank of Commerce||Christian Church Homes||
$590,000 AHP Grant
The grand re-opening of the historic Lorenz Hotel, now Lorenz Senior Apartments, was an especially joyful affair, bringing city and state officials, lenders and funders, staff, and residents together to celebrate the successful and high-quality renovation of 60 affordable studio and one-bedroom apartments for low-income seniors in the heart of downtown Redding, California.
Built in 1901 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the red-clay four-story Beaux Arts and Italian Renaissance-style building now offers residents modern kitchens and baths, laundry rooms on every floor, a community room with a big-screen TV and computers, improved accessibility throughout, and solar heating, all within a mile of a variety of essential services.
Christian Church Homes, which develops and manages affordable housing that allows seniors to live and age in the comfort of their own homes as part of the community, began managing the Lorenz Hotel in 1995 and took over ownership of the property in 2000. CCH Operations Manager Willie Smith says the idea for the renovation, centered on providing kitchens, came to her at 3 am. "That’s a time when I do some of my best thinking," she says. "I called the home office to tell them about it and they said 'You’re right!'' Since Willie’s vision for the property would clearly benefit residents current and future, CCH put together a team to make it happen.
The renovation took 21 months to complete, and the project received a $590,000 AHP grant through Bank member Redding Bank of Commerce. 'We are very pleased to once again team up with the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco under its Affordable Housing Program. The Lorenz Hotel is a vital part of our community, and AHP's assistance greatly contributes to Redding Bank of Commerce's efforts in supporting these special projects," said Randall Eslick, President and Chief Executive Officer, Redding Bank of Commerce.
CCH manages more than 60 properties like the Lorenz in six states, but the need for many more units of affordable senior housing is growing especially fast. According to Don Stump, CCH President and Chief Executive Officer, there’s a "silver tsunami" coming, as aging baby boomers are expected to swell the ranks of seniors in the U.S. from 35 million to 75 million in the coming years. "There’s never been a place before where a fifth of the population is over 65, so we’ve got to get ready for that."
Marie Augsburger is the administrator for the property. "I was raised with my grandparents nearby, I saw them every day, so for me respecting the older generation is just something you do," she says. The scarcity of housing options is very troubling, she notes, when seniors who have worked hard all their lives can still find themselves at risk of homelessness because of high housing costs. "I like the people here, everyone has a different story, and that’s what’s nice. It’s their home, and we’re like a family."
When resident Jacalyn Ward was forced to close her massage business after 38 years, she found herself staying with friend after friend, worried that her next stop might be a homeless shelter. Then she put in an application at the Lorenz and quickly received a call that she should come in for an interview. "I've been here six months, and I've never regretted taking this studio apartment,” she says. "I love having a place where I can live my way: simple, clean, and compact. And the most wonderful thing of all is that when I pay my rent each month, I still have money left over for food."
As an SRO without kitchens, the Lorenz traditionally attracted more men than women, but with the renovation, the ratio of men to women has come into a better balance. And men like James Fennel, 84, are also enjoying the new amenities. "I cook twice a week, minimum, maybe three times a week, and try to eat healthy, mostly something you boil, not fry," he says. His new, accessible shower is also a boon, sparing him frequent trips to the nearby beauty college for shampoos.
James has had an interesting life, traveling to dozens of foreign countries while he was in the service and later working for the Defense Department. He brought his family up to Redding when his children were young, to get them away from the unsettled urban environment of that time. Later, when he couldn’t catch a cab at the Redding airport one day, he got the idea of starting his own taxi company, which he operated for 10 years. But with his kids grown up, his domestic situation changed and the house he was living in became just a house, no longer a home.
After exploring housing options through the VA and the many fraternal organizations to which he belongs, James heard about Christian Church Homes communities from one of his daughters. "Since they used that word 'Homes,' I concentrated on that," he says. "This is a home. And I’m with people who are my own peers, mainly my own age." Residents enjoy visiting with each other in the lobby, or outside on good weather days. And he appreciates the location, which is within easy walking distance to most of the places he likes to go. "It’s beyond my expectations here, so far."
The City of Redding is also very pleased to have the Lorenz helping to rejuvenate the downtown area, filling the nearby streets and park benches with elders who can create a visible sense of intergenerational community. According to City Administrator Kurt Starman, redevelopment in the 1960s was not kind to downtown Redding, as a lot of great buildings were torn down to put up parking lots, so the benefit of preserving and revitalizing an elegant landmark like the Lorenz goes well beyond the housing provided.
Willie Smith’s fan club is a large one: people call her the heartbeat of CCH in Redding. It's clear that the Lorenz is her pride, and her joy. "This particular hotel has seen so many changes, gone through so many phases," she says as she invites the audience to take a tour. "Now there’s probably another 50 or 60 years left in this grand old lady, and I think you’ll all agree she’s absolutely beautiful."