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Columbia Housing Authority consultants to report renovation, redevelopment plans

Monday, July 16, 2012 | 9:08 p.m. CDT; updated 12:08 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Families live in some of the oldest public housing in Columbia and many tenants with children express concern for their safety and question the stability of the stairwells. A consultant for the Columbia Housing Authority is recommending renovating apartments along Lincoln Drive, Unity Drive, West Worley Street, Hicks Drive, Park Avenue, Providence Walkway and the east side of Providence Road.

COLUMBIA — A consultant for the Columbia Housing Authority will present its recommendations for renovating downtown public housing apartments to the authority's board of commissioners Tuesday evening. The board also will discuss two properties it has identified as ripe for redevelopment with affordable housing.

The authority is moving forward on a plan to expand affordable housing opportunities in the central city and elsewhere. It has a long-term goal of becoming a leading developer and manager of affordable and mixed-income housing opportunities in the city.

If you go

WHAT: The Columbia Housing Authority Board of Commissioners will hold its regular meeting. The agenda includes a discussion with consultants about how to proceed with redevelopment of downtown public housing and other new affordable housing projects.

WHEN: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: The housing authority's administration building, 201 Switzler St.


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"Our new plan will include strategies to expand affordable housing opportunities in Columbia, including additional affordable housing rental units, additional affordable homeownership units, and additional affordable rental housing with supportive services," authority CEO Phil Steinhaus said. 

Consultants have been evaluating the physical condition of public housing downtown and soliciting residents' opinions for how to redevelop the 50-year-old apartments. Representatives from ND Consulting Group, the lead consultant on the project, will present their findings at a commission meeting Tuesday evening.

Physical needs assessment

ND Consulting and its partner, Capital Consultants Inc., have drafted a report that includes several suggestions for renovating the downtown apartments, according to a document package on the housing authority's website.

"These units are not well configured," ND spokeswoman Michele Duffe said. The consultants have been inspecting public housing since mid-June to learn what work might need to be done.

The housing includes apartments along Lincoln Drive, Unity Drive, West Worley Street, Hicks Drive, Park Avenue, Providence Walkway and the east side of Providence Road.

The company's proposal notes that some of the housing is becoming "increasingly obsolete." After evaluating the apartments over the past month, the consultants are recommending the following improvements:

  • Site: Redesign parking lots, replace sanitary sewer and water pipes, install LED lighting, make minor sidewalk repairs.
  • Building exteriors: Remove and replace floor slabs, remove and replace roofs and trusses, install energy-efficient windows that meet building codes and retrofit exterior walls to accommodate new windows.
  • Building interiors: Redesign room layouts to make better use of space and to meet requirements of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, rebuild staircases, replace kitchen cabinets, modify kitchen layouts, replace all flooring and appliances, provide dryers and install smoke and carbon dioxide detectors.
  • Mechanical systems: Replace all plumbing fixtures, furnaces and condensers; redesign and relocate condensate piping, water heaters, electric panels and electric wiring; install exhaust fans in bathrooms.

Potential new sites for affordable housing

ND Consulting Group and the housing authority have been contacting various property owners to determine whether they are interested in selling their property to the authority for redevelopment as affordable housing. A map created by the consultant identified 23 vacant properties in the central city that might be of interest.

The consulting group already has identified five sites that might be suitable for the development of affordable housing. Four of those are outside the central city area bounded by Business Loop 70, West Boulevard, College Avenue and Broadway.

The site nearest the heart of the city is at the intersection of Garth Avenue and Sexton Road. Steinhaus and Duffe said the authority and consultants have talked with the Columbia Community Development Corp. and the city of Columbia about forming a partnership to develop that property.

"We are talking to the Enterprise Development Corporation and Job Point," Duffe wrote in an email. "But it is primarily to get their input into the overall concept; that being CHA becoming the developer and manager of affordable housing in Columbia, either by themselves or in partnership with special needs not-for-profits."

Michael Crist, executive director of Enterprise Development Corp., which administers the Columbia Community Development Corp., confirmed that he and the housing authority have talked about the property at Garth and Sexton. He said the area is the most deteriorated in Columbia and that there are a lot of options for developing the property.

The team also identified the Deluxe Inn property at 2112 Business Loop 70 E. as one that might offer the best opportunity for developing affordable housing with supportive services. It's possible the authority could form a partnership with New Horizons Community Support Services on that development. 

On July 10, Steinhaus, Duffe and Tim Person, another member of the consulting team, held meetings with stakeholders to gather information about affordable housing needs and to share information about the housing authority's redevelopment plan.

The stakeholders included First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt, Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe, Job Point Executive Director Jim Loveless, Robyn Kauffman, associate director of Boone County Family Resources andTyree Byndom, president of Douglass Park Neighborhood Association.

Steinhaus said the group has discussed the possibility of creating a housing trust fund and a land bank for affordable housing development.

"There may be other opportunities to work together in the future as new ideas and opportunities present themselves," Steinhaus said. "It's too early to know everything that might come out of these discussions, since we have only met a few times."  

Steinhaus also said a report from the Mayor's Affordable Housing Task Force contains a number of recommendations that might be considered.

Community engagement 

Person and his company, Tim Person & Associates, are reaching out to stakeholders to gather public input for the planning process. 

"We make recommendation determined by what people tell us," Person said. "I am surprised by how passionate people living in Columbia are about the diversity of the city. People talked about a lot of issues: types of housing, low-income housing, race and income." 

The Housing Authority sends newsletter fliers and emails to residents each month, ElTonya Rhoades, executive assistant of the authority, said. 

Grassroots Organizing brought residents of Lincoln Drive, Unity Drive and West Worley Street public housing together Thursday to discuss their concerns and how to learn more about the housing authority's plans. On Friday, the group and residents invited Steinhaus to a public meeting from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. July 25 to discuss the authority's plans. Steinhaus has accepted. The meeting will be held at the old Labor Temple, 611 N. Garth Ave.

Michael Pryor, president of the Downtown Residents Association, said in a news release that residents need to know what's going on.

“Whenever anyone is threatened with the loss of their home, it's only natural to be worried," Pryor said. "The families in public housing are no different and, in fact, they have less resources and know that affordable housing is lacking in Columbia.”

In the proposal, ND Consulting suggests the Housing Authority should build replacement housing before relocating residents and renovating existing housing. Duffe said neither the authority nor the consultants know the order of any development or redevelopment projects yet.


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