A new era is dawning in public housing here, speakers said.
By PETER H. MILLIKEN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
FARRELL, Pa. -- The start of construction on the Hope VI community marks a major step in public housing reform, speakers said at a ceremonial groundbreaking for the new community's first phase.
"Today, we're celebrating a milestone. It's not a beginning, nor is it an end," said L. DeWitt Boosel, executive director of the Mercer County Housing Authority.
Boosel said the real beginning was the awarding of the Hope VI grant to MCHA by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in May 2000. "The end will be when we finally revitalize the community that we stand in," he added.
"It's with great pride that we have embarked toward this extended vision and with a sense of promise that it holds, not only for our residents, but for our community," said Carol Gurrera, chairwoman of the MCHA board, during Tuesday's groundbreaking.
James Cassidy, director of public housing for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Pittsburgh office, said Hope VI is "turning public housing as we know it on its head.''
What project involves
Under the $30 million Hope VI project, the 100 apartments in 17 barracks-style 1950s-vintage buildings comprising the Steel City Terrace housing project will be demolished and replaced with an expanded complex of 145 dwelling units to be built in stand-alone, duplex and triplex buildings.
The complex, which will include 74 federally subsidized rental units, 45 with market-rate rents, and 26 units for sale, will be built in two phases as a joint effort of the MCHA and developer Ralph Falbo of Pittsburgh. Rien Construction Co. of Brookfield is the general contractor. The project is being funded by a combination of federal grants and loans and state tax credits.
The authority hopes work will begin within the next two weeks with demolition of four buildings on the west side of Spearman Avenue that have already been vacated, Boosel said. Construction should take about three years for the entire community, he added.
"I hope it's hope for the residents -- a new life, a new community. There are hard-working citizens down here," said Joani Harris, a day-care worker and president of the Steel City Terrace resident council.
In the Hope VI community, which is designed to return to a traditional neighborhood concept and make its residents proud community stakeholders, each family will have its own defined house and yard space, project planners have said.