By Alea Challenger
Shuttleworth & Ingersoll Attorneys Marty Stoll, Jonathan Landon, and Joseph Miller played an integral role as the legal team behind Monroe Place, a project by the Affordable Housing Network, Inc. (AHNI), a Cedar Rapids-based non-profit.
Monroe Place is the outcome of AHNI’s work to convert the vacant Monroe Elementary School into living space to support its mission of creating safe and sustainable affordable housing. The former school, located on the southeast side of Cedar Rapids, was built in 1961 and closed in 2012 due to declining enrollment.
The project posed interesting legal hurdles for the attorneys. Stipulations around federal historic tax credit requirements changed midway through the project, making certain legal steps, the timing of which would be otherwise inconsequential, now critically relevant for financing. Thankfully for the sake of the project, that legal work had been completed with only weeks to spare, allowing the project to continue within a framework of policies that have since been overhauled. The inclusion of a dog park for residents on the property contributed to additional legal considerations. The project also involved garnering support from neighbors and working with multiple other parties. Stoll handled the real estate acquisition, the project financing documentation, and drafting of the lease documents. Landon and Miller handled the formation of the ownership entities, the tax credit agreements, and various other tax issues.
AHNI hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house on Wednesday, June 20th to reintroduce the facility to the community. Monroe Place is a 19-unit apartment building with living spaces of various sizes, ranging from one- to four-bedroom units, and many reminders of the building’s original days as a school. “AHNI did a great job tracking down a lot of Monroe’s history,” said Stoll. The entryway has a colorful mural painted in honor of a long-time secretary. Several former students and teachers were in attendance at the ribbon-cutting ceremony and loaned their Monroe Elementary memorabilia to decorate the hallways during the open house. The radiators and the windows in the building are still from the 1961 construction. Each apartment unit features the original classroom blackboards, and the hallway cubbies are still intact. The former gymnasium and cafeteria have been redesigned into loft units.
The way Monroe Elementary School was honored made this project particularly special for Stoll, who has been a volunteer for AHNI since 2012. She currently serves as vice chair of the organization’s board of directors. For her, this project took “a shuttered school and brought it back to life in a positive way.” Shuttleworth’s involvement with Monroe Place will continue by handling any ongoing legal needs for the project after construction is complete. Residents are expected to begin moving in as soon as July 1.
Alea Challenger is a summer intern at Shuttleworth & Ingersoll. She is a rising senior at Harvard University studying History of Science, with a particular focus on medical ethics, health care, and women’s health. On campus, she is the vice president of the Black Pre-Law Association. She also volunteers with the Small Claims Advisory Service – an organization which provides legal advice to Massachusetts residents navigating small claims court.