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Residents of Butler's Lafayette Apartments make themselves at home anew

| Saturday, April 13, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Resident Terrence Doller stands inside the Historic Lafayette Apartments lobby. The Butler building, at the corner of Diamond and Main streets, has undergone more than $3 million in renovations, including new heating and cooling systems.
The Historic Lafayette Apartments at the corner of Diamond and Main streets in Downtown Butler has undergone more than $3 million in renovations, including new heating and cooling systems and new windows.

Thanks to more than $3 million in renovations at the Historic Lafayette Apartments in Downtown Butler, resident Terrence Doller said he's much more comfortable.

“I have better air now,” Doller, 56, a resident since 2006 said. “They outdid themselves. It's really nice what they did here.”

County officials are planning a reopening celebration, possibly by the end of the month, to unveil the renovations at the Lafayette. The building, which housed a bank, sits next to the county courthouse at Diamond and Main streets. The building is home to lower-income residents 55 and older and is nearly full with its 52 one-bedroom apartments, six efficiencies and one two-bedroom unit.

“Now they have a wonderful building. It all works very, very well,” Perry O'Malley said, executive director of the Butler County Housing and Redevelopment Authority, said.

O'Malley said when the building was retrofitted about 18 years ago to provide housing, developers didn't upgrade the infrastructure, including heating and cooling systems. Also, residents could not open windows, and the decades-old systems meant that the heat was turned on in October and cooling systems in April and residents had little control.

Now, double-pane exterior windows open, O'Malley said, allowing most residents to get fresh air. Those windows also kept the historic appearance of the structure. Each apartment has its own small heating/cooling unit that residents can control year-round.

Electrical systems and plumbing were upgraded and the main lobby renovated. A large bank vault houses a library and other reminders of the financial past of the building, including teller windows, remain.

Residents said they were happy with renovations in the basement, including a new and larger community room, an expanded kitchen, new laundry facilities and more storage space.

“I like to come down here and work and watch TV, and play bingo” said resident Joan Updegrass, 66. “I really like it.”

Low-income housing tax credits provided about $2 million in financing for the project, O'Malley said. Another $1 million came through the federal stimulus and a $350,000 grant from the Butler County commissioners. The authority also refinanced $2 million of debt.

Housing authority officials said that with the upgrades, they expect to cut electric and gas costs by 30 percent, saving about $20,000 a year.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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