When Henson Development Company and Mission First Community Development Corporation needed legal assistance to help them navigate the acquisition and development process for an affordable housing community in Baltimore’s historic Fells Point, the two groups chose Ballard Spahr – a national law firm with one of the largest housing groups in the country.
Ballard Spahr represents both nonprofit and for-profit affordable housing developers, tax credit investors and syndicators, housing authorities, and state housing agencies with all aspects of affordable housing transactions and has advised clients from every “side” of the table on thousands of deals including tax credit, bond, and mixed-finance transactions, among others. Due to its extensive experience, Ballard Spahr is in an ideal position to identify and solve challenges unique to the community development industry.
Henson and Mission First CDC tapped Ballard Spahr in 2012 to help with the acquisition and redevelopment process for a Baltimore City police station originally built in 1920. Known as the Fells Point Station, the property would provide nearly 50 affordable apartments and ground-floor retail space and would be the first new construction in the area in more than 50 years.
The housing lawyers in Ballard Spahr’s Baltimore office started by helping obtain city zoning approvals and continued with the project through due diligence and the financial closing. Fells Point Station was financed with low income housing tax credits (LIHTC), historic credits and several other sources of financing. The development also required that a condominium structure be established to accommodate the ground floor retail space.
As with many other affordable housing projects, the complexity of the transaction threatened the viability of the project at several points during the process; however, through the determination and creativity of the developers, the project became a success. While Ballard Spahr has been involved in much larger projects, the firm is proud of its involvement with Fells Point Station because it illustrates that developing urban-infill affordable housing communities is possible with perseverance, key partnerships, proper structuring and the assistance of counsel adept at handling the diverse aspects of these complex deals.
Ballard Spahr gleans “lessons learned” from every project, and, through its HAND membership, the firm is able to share these lessons on a broad scale with other Washington, D.C. metro area community development professionals. The lessons are not always about legal challenges. Ballard Spahr also works to identify and solve logistical challenges, timing hurdles and other impediments that could affect the closing of a transaction. HAND helps the firm and its clients stay connected to others in the development community to identify those challenges and address them proactively. Also, through HAND’s industry and networking events, Ballard Spahr has learned from other members about their experiences with new financing programs and has been able to connect with agency staffers to discuss priorities and initiatives.
HAND is pleased to spotlight Ballard Spahr, which certainly contributes to our organization’s COLLABORATION, INNOVATION, and TRANSFORMATION for the metropolitan area!