By John Lynds
Trinity Financial’s Patrick Lee hosted a community meeting at the Orient Heights Public Housing Development’s community room to update residents of the housing development and community as a whole on the ongoing construction to replace one of the city’s largest and oldest housing developments.
The good news, Lee said, was Phase I of the project is wrapping up and by March 2018 Trinity will begin relocating residents dip lanced by construction back into the 120 new units that were constructed.
“Our target date is March and hopefully by June those 120 units will all be occupied,” said Lee. “When you see them I think you will be pleased with the quality.”
After Phase I is completed Lee said Trinity will move into Phase II of the project which includes demolition and the construction of 88 units along Valler Road.
“We are completing Phase 1,” said Lee. “There are 331 units currently here and we have replaced 120 of those units. Phase II will be another 88 units on Valler Road. That will leave us with 123 units that still need to be replaced. We hope to raise the resources to replace all the units here and the housing development in a very important resource in a neighborhood that is becoming increasingly unaffordable.”
Lee said that the Governor and Mayor have poured a lot of resources into getting Phase I done and hopes the same resources are made available for the rest of the four phase redevelopment.
“When we started the redevelopment there were several things we wanted to do,” said Lee. “Many of the things we can still do but others we don’t see a way to incorporate them into the plan. The demolition of other units that are part of Phase II is still happening. The construction of 88 new units is still happening. We are still committed to good quality open space for the seniors, children and families and we are still going to have community space that is an important part of life in the community.”
However, Lee said Trinity was forced to scrap the plan to connect Valler Road to Waldemar Avenue down below.
“When we started the cost of this was feasible,” said Lee. “But after working with engineers the cost tripled.”
At the start the cost to connect the two roads on the hill was roughly $3 million but mushroomed to nearly $10 million after the road was studied and the soil tested.
“When we raised the funds for the project the road work was connected to the housing, open space and community space,” said Lee. “After meeting with engineers and looking at the cost so the road can meet city standards it became very expansive to make that connection from street to street. We went to the city and state to raise additional funds but we were not successful in doing so. With the limited amount of resources we had to make some choices and we chose, with the limited amount of resources, to complete Phase I and begin work on Phase II and the community open space and community meeting space.”
The decision to do some belt tightening on the overall project, Lee admitted, was in part due to Trinity having no money as of now to complete Phases III and IV of the redevelopment.
This announcement raised some eyebrows in the audience at the meeting and some were angry that Trinity took on a project that could potentially not be completed due to lack of funding.
Some at the meeting worried that the project may stall after the second phase for several years–given the current Trump Administration cuts to agencies that fund these types of public housing redevelopments. Those living in the Orient Heights Housing Development, especially those living in apartments slated to be demolished under Phase III and IV of the plan, worried they would have to continue to live in aging and substandard public housing while neighbors down the hill had brand new units.
“Unfortunately that’s how funding for these projects is done,” said Lee, whose company was involved in the redevelopment of Maverick Landing a decade ago. “All these projects are done through raising money and through phases. But let me assure you we have never not completed one of these multiple phase projects.”