Developers request rezoning for construction of new public housing
"Progress-Index (Petersburg, VA)", 2014-02-05
Feb. 05--HOPEWELL -- Plans to demolish the aging Langston Park public housing development in favor of building new and energy efficient mixed-income units have taken a step forward.
During a City Council meeting, representatives from the Hopewell Housing and Redevelopment Authority and Community Housing Partners presented plans to rezone the multifamily property from R-4 to a planned unit development. Developers stated the new designation would allow more open space.
The current 30-unit development will be replaced by 56 units, 26 of which will be rented at market rate. Thirty of the units will remain under the Section 8 voucher program.
Steven Benham, executive director of the Hopewell Housing and Redevelopment Authority, said all 29 families currently living in Langston Park will have homes reserved for them in the new property and that temporary relocation of the 29 families would be provided.
Construction of the apartments is slated to cost about $9.5 million. CHP has acquired all of the funding for the project, which includes state and federal tax credits, grants and private investment.
CHP will oversee construction if the city gives the go-ahead to start. CHP is a nonprofit organization that works with public and private partners to provide energy efficient and quality affordable housing.
Benham said ownership of the property would transfer from HHRA to CHP after the financial and approval processes have closed. He expects this will be accomplished by the middle of March.
Despite having the money and plans in hand, CHP and the HHRA must wait for the approval of the rezoning application by council and site planning by the city's planning department. The planning department must also issue a series of permits.
During the planning process for the development, CHP held six community meetings to involve residents in crafting a vision for their new home.
Tarvaris McCoy, development associate for CHP, said that resident suggestions pushed the organization to apply for rezoning.
"We came in thinking OK, it's zoned R-4 ... to make it work you have to put in these three-story walk-up apartments because that is what fits the zoning and that is the way it's going to work," McCoy said. "But the feedback we got from residents was by no means will that make us happy."
McCoy said that a planned unit development zoning designation had the advantage of bringing the units closer together and further from the street.
A planned unit development must be 50 percent open space. Ten percent of that space must be recreational space which can be areas such as sidewalks, playgrounds and tennis courts.
McCoy also said that CHP would focus on making the development safer for residents by creating open spaces with better lighting.
"It promotes the community and everyone having an eye out," he said.
The units will also be more energy-efficient, with a substantial reduction in monthly energy bills.
A new community center will replace the current one at Langston Park, and could be used as classroom and meeting space, and possibly a workspace with computers.
McCoy also estimated that the new units would be financially beneficial to the city.
During construction, CHP expects 51 local jobs to be created with local salaries totaling about $3,424,101. Taxes and fees are expected to total $500,855 and local business income is expected to total $803,753.
Following the presentation, Councilors Brenda Pelham, Ward 6, and Jasmine Gore, Ward 4, expressed concerns about the future of the project.
Gore asked what would become of the 26 market-rate units if they couldn't be rented.
David Schultz, vice president of development, CHP, said he expected the units to be in high demand.
"We don't see any problem with people from down the street moving into our property; normal working people, who love the fact that we have brand new buildings that are energy-efficient, with electricity bills that are probably one-third of the normal rate," Schultz said.
Pelham expressed concern that more public housing would be added.
"We need the commitment from Mr. Benham that you don't plan to give out 30 more additional vouchers," Pelham said.
Benham said that he wouldn't issue anymore Section 8 vouchers for Langston Park.
Schultz said that in his meetings with Langston Park residents, the families saw the development as a chance to improve their surroundings.
"They cared more about protecting their environment and bringing it up and chasing an element out and how we were going to accomplish that for them," he said.
Twenty of the 29 families living in Langston Park attended the CHP planning meetings.
While revitalization of Langston Park moves toward getting its start, another HHRA project has stalled.
A renovation of Kippax Place, which was announced by the HHRA in February 2013 along with plans to rebuild Langston Park, is now a year behind due to funding, McCoy said. Renovations were slated to begin this year and to be completed in 2015.
Schultz estimated the cost of renovating Kippax Place, located at 100 S. Kippax St., to be about $8.5 million.
McCoy said that funding was dependent on tax credits for which other properties in the country were considered and received. Kippax Place is set to compete for tax credits again in March.
CHP plans to provide Kippax Place with much needed energy upgrades as well as new flooring and other improvements to the building and individual units.
Further discussion on the rezoning will take place during the Feb. 11 council meeting.
- Leah Small may be reached at 722-5172 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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