Long ago, it was a home for indigent women. Before long, it could be a home again, thanks in large part to Chemical Bank.

[Expanded Picture]Following an affordable housing competition, the big New York bank awarded $25,000 in May to a nonprofit group that sponsored a team of Columbia University graduate students. The team proposed gutting the Graham House, a scarred four-story brick building in Brooklyn, NY, and creating 58 units of single-room occupancy for a mix of mentally ill, formerly homeless and low-income tenants. The Columbia group beat out teams from New York University and the University of Connecticut.

The award will be used for predevelopment expenses; Chemical has made no commitment to fund construction itself. While all of New York State was open for site selection, all three teams chose sites in Brooklyn and explored zoning, design and pricing concerns. Judging was done by a panel of professionals in the affordable housing area, following a series of presentations.

Staging an affordable housing competition isn't a new idea--First Interstate Bank of California sponsored one in South Central Los Angeles (Industry, April 1994)--but it's a worthwhile one. People in the community get energized. Chemical executive vice president Michael Hegarty told the losing teams that he hopes their projects, too, will get built.

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