Housing Authority plans two complexes

Losing out on the HOPE VI grant will not prevent extensive improvements to New Haven’s public housing.

Housing Authority officials said work on master plans for both the West Rock and Quinnipiac Terrace housing complexes began last month, despite concerns about funding.

“Our goal is to demolish obsolete housing and create new communities,” said Robert Solomon, the Housing Authority’s interim director. “We’re going to look at the sites, look at the amenities needed, look at the neighborhoods, and then design appropriate plans.”

In November, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development denied New Haven’s bid for a $35 million HOPE VI revitalization grant for redeveloping the West Rock neighborhood. But the Housing Authority has not turned its back on the importance of upgrading the West Rock facilities.

“West Rock remains our first priority,” said Peter Hance, director of planning and redevelopment for the Housing Authority. “We are prepared to go ahead.”

West Rock lies in the northwest corner of New Haven, and Quinnipiac Terrace is on the Quinnipiac River in the Fair Haven neighborhood. The West Rock neighborhood plan will provide for 700 to 1,000 housing units, with financing providing the largest development hurdle. The design for Quinnipiac Terrace would involve complete demolition of the current housing units and would make better use of the riverfront site, Solomon said.

Hance said the authority already prepared a master plan for the West Rock neighborhood that incorrectly anticipated a successful HOPE VI application, but significant changes to the plan may be necessary. He added that the authority’s implementation committee must decide whether to apply for a HOPE VI grant next year or seek alternative funding sources. The committee’s decision will affect the direction of the master plan.

“There are tax credits, loans and other types of financial backing,” said Robin Golden, deputy director of the authority. “One part of the master planning is to figure out the financial aspects of the project.”

The plan for Quinnipiac Terrace is less developed; the authority currently is interviewing architects and engineers to produce a master plan for the site.

Authority officials said final versions of both plans will avoid the World War II barracks-style housing that characterizes public housing projects from years past.

“For old public housing projects, you knew when you drove by that it was public housing,” Hance said.

Monterey Place, a public housing complex in the Dixwell neighborhood, is an example of the latest design for public housing programs. In December, the authority began the second phase of redeveloping Monterey Place through a 1993 HOPE VI grant.

The first phase of the project, which ran from late 1998 until October 2001, built nine homeownership units and 300 rental blocks, including 99 rehabilitated elderly units. The second phase will last until the end of 2002 and construct 42 rental and 14 homeownership units. A third and final phase during 2003 will assist first-time homeowners.

The 1993 grant helped the authority obtain $10.5 million in private funding for the project.

“Prior to HOPE VI, private investment in public housing projects was not done before,” said Suzanne Miller, HOPE VI project director for the housing authority.

But even without the HOPE VI grant, authority officials are confident the West Rock redevelopment will be successful.

“It will still be possible to do something meaningful there,” Miller said.

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