City housing authority updates properties

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By Rodnita Simmons

The Phenix City Housing Authority (PCHA) is redeveloping several properties to improve the community and enhance residents’ quality of life. In the past five years, changes in Congressional legislation have increased restrictions on U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Obtaining the necessary funding to complete these plans has been challenging. Executive Director Mary Mayrose presented plans for these new developments to the Russell County Commissioners in January.

The building of Hidden Hills Trace apartments, located at the intersection of 19th Avenue and 24th Street, is in Phase I of development with 84 mixed income one-, two- and three-bedroom units being constructed. There will be nine apartment buildings modeled in a traditional style that will fit the neighborhood’s design aesthetics they are in, which includes a variety of multi-family complexes. These apartments will include a community center with meeting space, computer lab, management offices, playground and walking trail. The anticipated move-in date is November 2018.

The construction of Whitewater Village, which is taking place on the site of the old Riverview Apartments, is in Phase II. The apartments are located between 6th Avenue on the west and 4th Avenue on the east. Riverview Apartments will be replaced with 82 new mixed income one-, two- and three-bedroom bedroom units. They will also have a community center, playground and walking trail.

“These apartments will be modeled in a more modern style that resembles urban development,” Mayrose said.

While these developments are occurring, residents have been temporarily relocated to other properties. Riverview Apartments will be torn down in May and the anticipated move-in date is October 2019.

There has not been a date set for public presentation of the proposed renovations to the Frederick Douglas apartments, but more details are to follow.

At the L.P. Stough Apartments, interior renovations have been temporarily stalled due to the PCHA trying to convert the housing from HUD to RAD (Rental Assistance Demonstration), which would give the ownership to a private landlord. These changes will not affect the people living there. Exterior renovations will also be done with storage units being added, and improvements made to porches and landscaping.

The H.L. Blake apartments, a complex for the elderly, still have ongoing renovations which will take several years to complete. Once a unit becomes vacant, it is renovated.

As for the Whispering Pines, or Old Coweta Apartments, located on 1200 11th Ave., they are in the process of being converted to RAD in order to eliminate any debt incurred from renovations. Due to this process, improvements are taking longer than expected, however this conversion is significant because it will allow the property to compete with the private sector. Once implemented, there will be fewer restrictions for the agency and for the family.

“Families are most important to us,” Mayrose said. “Whether they are RAD, Section 8 or voucher recipients, these are their homes and we all want to come home to feel welcome.”

For residents these new changes are remarkable.

“The most exciting moment was showing renderings of drawings to residents and seeing their excitement,” Mayrose said. “Wouldn’t you be excited about leaving a 1942 apartment and moving into one built in 2018?” she asked.

Mayrose’s most proud realization since she has been with PCHA is, “Seeing how the board of commissioners has grown and come together to engage in this development process and supportive services.  The PCHA goes beyond housing to support families in order to improve their quality of life. They have partnered with CVCC to offer GED classes to residents and they also hold job fairs on site at properties.”

PCHA receives funding for these redevelopments from tax credits sold to large businesses.  These funds are disbursed to be spent over a designated period. In return, the state, treasury and HUD checks with PCHA to ensure the funds are spent accordingly and that projects are completed satisfactorily.