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Cleveland Heights redevelopment in progress, new low-income housing for eligible Newark residents

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Alders Creek Newark Housing Authority Sketch_opt-1
Courtesy of Ingerman Development
An artist’s rendering of the new Alders Creek Apartments, due to open next spring.

BY
STAFF REPORTER

The Newark Housing Authority and the Newark City Council are working together to redevelop a low- income housing complex, formerly known as the Cleveland Heights housing project, just off Cleveland Avenue.

According to the Newark City Council, the new site will be called Alders Creek, replacing Cleveland Heights, which was built in the 1960s and offered 42 apartments to eligible low-income families. The site originally had duplexes with two apartments in each building, but the space became rundown over time and has been vacant since 2008, according to the Newark City Council. Upon completion of the redevelopment, the new site will boast 56 new apartments.

Stu Markham, District 6 councilman, said the site is owned by the Newark Housing Authority, an organization that provides subsidized housing for low-income families. Markham said for years the group tried to figure out how to either sell the property or redevelop it effectively. According to Markham, the economy devalued the worth of the property at the time, so the Newark City Council worked with the Newark Housing Authority to find funds to redevelop the site.

“Cleveland Heights had been there for a long time, and you can actually see the same houses there still now,” Markham said. “They’re 50 years old, and they took a lot of maintenance, which is why they went into a state of disrepair followed by vacancy in 2008.”

Markham said the council was motivated to redevelop the site due to a significant lack of affordable housing in Newark. He said the reality is that low-income families have a hard time finding an affordable place to live in Newark.

“Low income housing is hard to find in the city because the real estate is at a premium,” Markham said. “There’s more likely to be student housing development and off-campus townhouses for the UD students rather than low-income housing development for the community.”

District 6 councilman Doug Tuttle said the lack of affordable housing options for low-income families was the main motivator behind redeveloping the site. Tuttle said it has not been easy for low-income families to find housing in recent years because Newark has a higher than average rental market driven by university students. The opening of Alders Creek will allow for more low-income families to remain in the city at affordable prices, he said.

“The housing authority has other sites in Newark, but they’re individual town homes that have been acquired over time,” Tuttle said. “The only major piece of real estate was the previous Cleveland Heights, and now that we’re redeveloping the site, we’ll be able to serve many more people with the 56 apartments being built.”

Tuttle said the Newark City Council’s first choice was to sell the land and buy a space that could be developed on another site in Newark. Tuttle said it was not economically feasible to sell the land, along with the fact that there was not a lot of choice for available land to purchase close-by in the city.

“There’s no question that this wouldn’t have been the top of the list in terms of locations to build the new development,” Tuttle said. “We made the best of it, and we’re excited that the land is at least getting repurposed and not just sitting there vacant.”

Markham said another reason for redevelopment is that the site is located on a former Newark landfill. He said it was an environmental issue of concern that needed to be addressed prior to deciding to rebuild on the site. Some of the land directly over the landfill is fenced off and being converted to a city solar park, he said. The Newark Housing Authority will be covering the portion of the landfill on their land with 2 feet of clean soil, he said.

“It’s the city’s old waste land from the 60s, but it went through a lot of testing and we’re seeing what the soil is like and what remediation has to be done,” Markham said. “The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control won’t let anything be built will be a danger to anyone living there.”

Marene Jordan, executive director of the Newark Housing Authority, said with 42 units vacant, her office was not effectively meeting its mission to provide necessary housing to low-income families. Jordan said it was the most viable plan to redevelop on the same piece of land rather than selling the property because it was the best and quickest options to get more families into housing.

“Our main goal is to place families, so we have an aggressive construction plan with a projected completion date of late spring 2015,” Jordan said. “We’re not going to wait for all 13 buildings to be built before we start leasing, so we plan on leasing when both the occupancy permits come in and the units are completed.”

Jordan said the minimum and maximum income levels for the new site could not be disclosed at this time. She said the eligibility requirements for Alders Creek will additionally be based on bedroom sizes and credit and criminal background checks because the primary funding source for the redevelopment is a nine-percent tax credit that the Newark Housing Authority was awarded through the Delaware State Housing Authority.

“The Newark Housing Authority made an application to the Delaware State Housing Authority, basically applying for tax credit,” Jordan said. “It’s being funded by private money, and we’re getting tax credit for the work.”

Tuttle said several different elements of the project were voted on in a February meeting. The city of Newark vacated the street running through the property, and when the redevelopment is completed there will be a new private roadway maintained by the Newark Housing Authority, he said. Tuttle said the new site will have more amenities than were offered at the old Cleveland Heights housing project.

“They’ll have a lot of green space there now, definitely more community area in the middle of the complex,” Tuttle said. “The other new feature will be a community center with a daycare drop-off for the residents.”

Jordan said she is optimistic about Alders Creek opening because many people look to the Newark Housing Authority to subsidize their rent, and with 56 new apartments they will be able to offer more options to those eligible for low-income housing. Jordan said she is particularly excited that the units will be energy efficient, making the utilities more affordable for the residents.

“We’ve had a dilapidated building since 2008 that has been an eyesore for the community, just sitting there vacant,” Jordan said. “Alders Creek will increase the amount of people who want to come to our community in live in Newark.”

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