New community takes shape in Hopewell
By Caitlin Davis, Senior Staff Writer
Jul 31, 2014, 13:37
CAITLIN DAVIS/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Construction has already begun on the new buildings for Langston Park.
HOPEWELL — Among the piles of dirt, shovels and construction equipment, the groundbreaking of Langston Park was celebrated last Friday morning. The $9.5 million project is not only a first of its kind for Hopewell, it is only one of few in existence in the nation.
Steven Benham, executive director for the Hopewell Redevelopment and Housing Authority, said those in attendance, standing on the once occupied road wrapping through Langston Park, were there to celebrate the “soon to be newest and best designed housing community in Hopewell.”
Vice Mayor Jasmine Gore not only congratulated the housing authority for the project in the city but commended the housing authority on keeping the energy alive in Hopewell.
“The city has a lot of stuff that’s going on. We have this revived energy,” Gore said. “This is a wonderful catalyst to keep that momentum going.”
Not only will the project create a new housing development for the city, but it will also bring in some dollars to the city. $4.5 million is estimated to come from total local income from construction, which are wages plus business income. Taxes and fees from construction are expected to generate over $500,000. And 54 full-time local jobs in construction and other industries will be created due to the Langston Park redevelopment.
“I see the transition of this 50-year-old housing authority changing over to something new in the city,” Councilor Wayne Walton said, who remarked the development used to be called Dreamland. “I want to thank the housing authority for going and taking this bold step for the community.”
The proposed plan for Langston Park includes demolishing the 30 units and building 56 units, with 30 of the apartments being under Section 8 contract and the other 26 being rented at market rate.
Carrie Schmidt, Richmond field office director for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said the housing authority in Hopewell had a vision and a commitment to change the future of housing in the city and as a result, made history.
“This is the first groundbreaking of the Rental Assistance Demonstration program in the whole entire Commonwealth of Virginia,” Schmidt said. “In fact, it’s probably only one of a very few that have started in the nation.”
Though an award presented by RAD, which is part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, earlier this year, HRHA was able to secure the funding for the Langston Park project.
RAD allows HUD properties and private owners of HUD-assisted properties to convert their current assistance over to long-term Section 8 contracts. RAD is expected to rehabilitate over 12,000 units of affordable housing and provide more than $650 million in private capital to those housing authorities in need.
Another funding source for the project came in the form of low income housing tax credits. The HRHA will be using the credits for the first time during the redevelopment of Langston Park.
After a request for proposal, RFP, process HRHA chose Community Housing Partners to complete the $9.5 million project. CHP, a nonprofit master developer based in Richmond.
Funding for the project was $6.5 million in private, equity investment, around $1.2 million came in the form of funding through the state from the housing trust fund and the remainder came from 30 year loans.
Linwood Crenshaw, Chairman for the Board of Directors for HRHA, echoed the sentiments of those spoken that morning and said, housing, like other products many buy, has a life cycle and Langston Park has reached the end of life in the city.
Langston Park, built in 1962, had been through unsuccessful renovations in years prior. The housing unit used to contain 40 units, 10 units more than the current 30 units. Those 10 units had been torn down and then rebuilt and then torn down permanently due to shrink/swell soil issues. Due to the shrink/swell soil issues, this led to the the deterioration of the building structures.
“This is just the beginning,” Crenshaw said. “We the housing authority have determined to stay focused and get it done, working together. There were several obstacles to overcome; however, today, those have been erased and in some cases eliminated.”
David Schulz, vice president of development for CHP, gave thanks to the residents of Langston Park for their continued support throughout the process, noting the group was engaged and respectful.
About 12 to 14 families have been relocated to Twin Rivers Apartments and the remaining to Thomas Rolfe Court. Residents did not incur any costs for relocating. CHP covered relocation costs, such as fees for setting up cable, internet, phone and power.
CHP also provided packing materials for each resident. As soon as residents were done packing, CHP were provided a moving company to come pick up the boxes and take them to the residents’ temporary home.
The same process will occur when the resident is ready to move back into Langston Park.
When residents move back into Langston Park, which is excepted to be completed in May of 2015, they will be coming home to an improved energy efficient, garden-style apartment.
In addition to the apartments being constructed with durable materials, the air quality at the housing community will be improved as well, such as the improvement of the HVAC heating and cooling systems.
The plan also calls for two playgrounds, a new community center, increased lighting, and more green space.
“Some say communities have the power to transform neighborhoods and, as a result, the lives of their residents,” Schultz said. “By providing Langston Park’s residents with new safe and energy efficient housing we’re providing an opportunity for its residents to thrive at this once functionally obsolete development. In short we’re not just redeveloping housing here, we’re rebuilding a community.”