Monday, December 8, 2014

Rockford Housing Authority to Pursue demolition of Brewington Oaks

Rockford Register StarROCKFORD — The Brewington Oaks public housing development is too expensive to modernize, so the Rockford Housing Authority will pursue demolition.The Board of Commissioners unanimously agreed Monday to pursue a “tentative” Section 18 application with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Housing Act of 1937 authorizes the demolition and disposition of public housing.

If HUD gives the OK, the Rockford agency will submit a full Section 18 application that would indicate housing plans for Brewington Oaks’ residents, who occupy about 300 of the 50-year-old development’s 418 apartment households.

Residents in Brewington Oaks’ two towers are senior citizens and people with disabilities, and their opinions about what kind of housing they would prefer and how close their new homes should be to certain amenities, such as bus lines and shopping venues, will be sought, RHA CEO Ron Clewer said.

A tentative application for a $2 million demolition project means the RHA has more time to appease concerns.

HUD could respond to the tentative application within a few months, which will give RHA time to get more feedback from the residents in the 15-story towers at College Avenue and Seminary Street.

“To get all the residents … all hyped up about the possibility of moving and then find out a year and a half later or a year later that it’s not going to happen, you get them all worried,” Clewer said. “You get them freaked out about their future.

“We don’t want to be in control of their move. We want to do this with them.”

The RHA has spent years discussing what to do with Brewington Oaks, where a third of the apartments are uninhabitable. According to studies, modernizing Brewington Oaks would cost about $60 million and building new would run $80 million.

RHA officials moved four years ago to renovate the towers, which mainly have one-bedroom apartments.

HUD denied its $11 million request for assistance, part of a $50 million modernization plan that would have let the towers continue standing but reduced the number of units to 226.

Commissioner Jerry Lumpkins said he was “feeling pretty good” about the decision to pursue a Section 18 application.

“It’s an obsolescent property,” he said. “It’s not the most aesthetically pleasing building. There’s enthusiasm to have something a little more modern, something a little more aesthetic.”

Read more from the Rockford Register Star here.