Consultants submit public housing plans

The plans will examine the feasibility of a public housing project on Park Avenue.
Sunday, February 27, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:19 p.m. CDT, Monday, June 30, 2008

The Columbia Housing Authority has received proposals from two consulting firms for redevelopment of public housing along Park Avenue, according to Rick Hess, the Housing Authority’s director of asset management. A consultant would guide the redevelopment project and apply for federal funding.

“It’s been discussed for a few years, and it’s exciting that it’s moving forward,” Hess said.

The deadline for proposals was Friday. Doris Chiles, executive director of the Housing Authority, and Richard Mendenhall, chairman of the redevelopment task force, will meet this week to review the proposals.

The Housing Authority wants a consultant to research the feasibility of a revitalization project on Park Avenue that could include the demolition of two existing public housing sites.

The Park Avenue properties currently contain 70 housing units.

According to the Housing Authority’s request for proposals, redesigned sites may include low-income rental units, homes for sale and commercial and retail space.

Any redevelopment will take years, according to Chiles, and funding is not guaranteed.

One of the consultant’s roles will be to secure funding for the proposed project, most notably applying for a federal HOPE VI grant.

The HOPE VI program was started in 1992 based on a recommendation from the National Commission on Severely Distressed Public Housing. The program’s goal is to replace severely distressed public housing with mixed-income developments.

Some groups have expressed concern about what happens to the original residents of HOPE VI public housing projects. When sites are demolished and revitalized, housing units are not always replaced at a 1-1 ratio. Displaced residents are relocated to other public housing sites or given housing vouchers that enable them to rent apartments in the private market.

Grass Roots Organizing, a local advocacy group, will host a meeting to discuss HOPE VI tomorrow from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Frederick Douglass High School gymnasium.

The meeting, titled “HOPE VI — Problems and Possibilities,” will include speakers from St. Louis and Kansas City who will share their own experiences with HOPE VI projects.

Mary Hussmann of Grass Roots Organizing said she wants to see public housing residents involved in any decisions concerning their homes.

“I trust people to make good decisions,” Hussmann said, “especially if they have good information.”

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