NEW ALBANY – Another step towards a massive overhaul of the Beechwood social housing site – which will include the demolition of existing barracks style units – was taken this week.
The New Albany Planning Commission made a favorable recommendation for a special exception and waiver required for the construction of a three-story senior residential facility on Beechwood Avenue and Lopp Avenue. It’s a facet of the New Albany Housing Authority’s plan to transform one of southern Indiana’s largest public housing complexes into a mixed-income neighborhood.
âThe purpose of all of this is to be a better servant to our families and those in need,â said NAHA Executive Director David Duggins.
There are still several hurdles to overcome before demolition and construction can begin, but housing officials are confident the project will come to fruition. Duggins said the NAHA has kept in regular contact with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development regarding its plans for Beechwood.
The project is part of a multi-level, $ 27 million effort to modernize several social housing sites in New Albany. Funding will come from a low-income housing tax credit, a rent-backed bond and COVID-19 relief money that Duggins said Mayor Jeff Gahan has said. is committed to the plan.
The shaving of public housing in Beechwood could begin by next March, and new construction is expected to be completed within the next two years after demolition. Duggins said NAHA officials would begin meeting with residents of the site over the next few months to prepare them for the move.
They will be moved to other NAHA sites or receive Tenant Protection Vouchers, which are supported by HUD and allow residents to move into social housing in other communities. The Beechwood redesign is expected to reduce the number of public housing units on the site by about 30 units, but the NAHA plan includes reserving 15 lots for construction of affordable single-family housing.
âSo we’re going to be building homes for ownership in the middle of our development, so it’s really going to be a mixed-income neighborhood tied to the rest of the neighborhood there,â Duggins said.
NAHA residents who complete the organization’s home ownership program will be granted the first rights to some of these plots as part of the plan.
The seniors facility will be approximately 30 units and overlook Silver Street Park. In fact, much of the new design focuses on access to the park, as Duggins said families in Beechwood regularly use the facility.
The existing homes that will be razed are over 70 years old and need to be replaced, he continued. The replacement homes will be a mix of single-family and duplex homes, and each will have modern styles with porches facing the sidewalks.
The one-way street grid within Beechwood will be converted to two-way travel. A new community building will be constructed as well as a community garden, playground and picnic area.
âIt’s going to be open, pretty, and secure, and we’ll have home ownership there,â Duggins said. “It’s really going to change this whole end of town.”
Scott Wood, the city’s director of planning and zoning, asked the commission to give a favorable recommendation for the waiver and special exception.
âIt was historically an African-American neighborhood that the federal government entered and acquired all the properties through a prominent estate, moved all the residents there and built it in anticipation of needing workers for the Charlestown munitions plant, âsaid Wood.
After the end of World War II, the government converted the neighborhood into social housing.
Wood said changing the face of public housing aligns with the City’s Comprehensive Plan, which is the document the planning commission uses when reviewing exceptions and special waivers.
According to Wood, 60% of all public housing in Clark, Floyd, Harrison, Scott and Washington counties in southern Indiana is in New Albany.
âIt’s a heavy burden for all of us to carry,â said Wood.