September 23, 2014

Elyria
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Housing Authority considers rebuilding Wilkes Villa

ELYRIA — A more livable, vibrant, green community is being planned for the Wilkes Villa housing complex of the Lorain County Metropolitan Housing Authority.

An artist's rendering shows what changes may be in store for Wilkes Villa.

An artist’s rendering shows what changes may be in store for Wilkes Villa.

Built in the early 1970s, Wilkes Villa has undergone some renovation and major maintenance projects over the decades but never before has a plan to replace every building been created. But a fire that resulted in the loss of one of the development’s buildings changed that idea for the board, said Executive Director Homer Virden.

“When we lost Building 11 to fire in 2011, it came about at a time when we were also discussing plans to for a new management facility and child care facility and were in talks with Lorain County Health & Dentistry over the placement of a medical facility on the grounds,” Virden said. “The board immediately knew to do the project right it would be best to think in terms of the entire complex and how development would be shaped for the future.”

A master plan, dubbed LMHA 2020, was developed as a result with input from residents, neighbors, churches, social service agencies and city officials. The first phase has a price tag of roughly $1.5 million to $2 million. A budget for the full master plan has yet to be created.

And while Virden says the agency does not have the funding to replace all of the buildings as it called for in the plan, it does know where the future of the complex eventually will go when the funding can be secured.

“We will start with these three buildings, with Building 11 being the prototype housing structure we will eventual move toward. In terms of look, it will be very different from the traditional row house design that is Wilkes Villa now,” he said. “We are looking at a townhouse-style building with porches and that are closer to the street.”

The homes will be built similar to the Heritage View Homes in the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority portfolio. The colorful homes feature green space, private entrances and individual parking.

Board Chairwoman Evelyn France said the redevelopment of Wilkes Villa always has been a pressing concern of the LMHA board. A board member since 2000, her first association with LMHA was going to Wilkes Villa to do credit enhancement classes with the residents when she was an employee of FirstMerit Bank.

“There has always been this commitment to do a total revitalization of Wilkes Villa,” France said. “It has been labeled as something bad in the community, but the residents there have the same desire to have clean, happy and safe homes for their families as everyone else in Elyria.”

France said over the last 10 to 15 years, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has started programming geared at making public housing residents more self-sufficient and moving away from the concept of centralized poverty locations — complexes that scream poverty as France put it.

“Everything has been geared toward making Wilkes Villa a stepping stone, but we want to give them something to be proud of while they are there,” she said. “This revitalization will be the rebirth of a community and a showplace for the city.”

Virden said the hope is to start construction later this year on the housing unit, likely to be an eight-unit building with between 24 and 32 bedrooms depending on the configuration of three- and four-bedroom units. The units will bring a different sense of community to the development. Families will move into the units based on the same criteria and screening process already in place.

Construction shouldn’t cause the displacement of any other tenants.

Wilkes Villa opened in 1972 and was named after a bishop of a local church. Many of the streets in the development are named after families from the community.

Virden said every attempt will be made to keep that historical connection to the community in the naming of buildings and streets.

If you go

The Wilkes Villa Master Plan will be introduced to the community 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Boys & Girls Club, 1821 Middle Ave., Elyria.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.


  • Bob Sweatt

    Yes please. Let’s give the crackhead, crackwhores and people who live off welfare a better place (and reason) to stay the way they are.
    Use the money for something better. Put the money into LCT so people who have and want jobs can get to work.

  • Nomad

    What a terrible idea! Wilkes has always been a sore spot! Don’t waste the money on druggies & cock roaches! Just drop a bomb on the whole area, disgusting!
    Rip

  • Bob Sweatt

    Hey LCMHA. Just remember this saying.

    You polish a turd. It’s still a turd.

    Give the 2 million to the Lorain County Transit.

  • mike

    Must be a dem in office.. Have to buy more votes. Plus the majority of violent crimes in Elyria has its roots in this complex. So I pay for the people to live their so they can rob me two times.. perfect logic.

    • David France

      Amen brother.

  • Nichole Fantauzzi

    I hope none of you fall on bad times and have to live in Wilkes Villa or any other low income housing. Not everybody out there now or before is remotely close to what you’ve described.

    • Phil Blank

      Not ALL public housing is like Wilkes Villa!
      Some have military veterans living in them.

      • Nichole Fantauzzi

        That was my point.

  • Phil Blank

    LMHA, use the money or lose it!
    If they don’t spen all they have, their budget will get cut the next year.
    And they can’t take housing money and use it for Lorain Transit.

  • Concerned reader

    I had to live there for a short time to escape a bad situation until I could get a safer place to live. I have never slept around with anyone nor have I ever done any type of illegal drug. So does the fact I had to live there for a little over a year classify me as the type of people described living there? Can’t people just fall on hard times and need a little boost up while they get back on track? I think it is nice that someone is starting to wake up and realize that people will reflect the area they live in. Give them something to respect and they will find it. Give them something to be ashamed and they will do shameful acts. It has been a proven theory in the study of criminal justice. Just some food for thought.

    • Bob Sweatt

      Hey no name. Wondering why you felt the need to not post a name. Maybe you are to embarrassed that you lived there.

      But anyway. I understand people fall on hard times and that everyone living there isn’t a criminal. But the Villa is a place were a lot of people associate with crime and illegal activity.

      Second. I am talking about the leaches who live on welfare because they are to lazy to work. White, black, yellow or red. A leach is a leach.

    • Tammy Adams

      I understand that there are some people that live there and use the services available to help them get back on their feet and who ONLY use the system to fall back on when times are tough, but I don’t believe that this is the case for the majority. The reality of it is that most of the residents of these facilities use the system and Metropolitan housing as a way of life, not just something to lean on when times are tough. The crime rate in that area is extremely high and many believe that they don’t have to work and are entitled to having everything handed to them. I grew up in Elyria and I dropped out of high school, but have since obtained two associates degrees and am working on my bachelors degree. I have always worked for everything and anything that I have ever had, have, or will have, and I am very proud of that. The buildings are still safe right? If they rebuild, the residents will never want to work hard to get out of there; why should they when they have a brand new home?

  • dr42th

    Keep making things that nice, working folk will be wanting to take up residency there soon enough!

  • betty

    Had my Buick stolen..guess where they found it?Yep in the Villa! Also drive in there and see what they are driving..to many brand new cars. Why can’t we just level it and make it a green space? Maybe they will go somewhere else..like Lorain or Cleveland. Why are we building them new living space we have enough crime and low income housing in this city.

  • Larry Crnobrnja

    Here’s an idea; why not have people on public assistance help build the facilities so they can learn a trade and reduce the cost to taxpayers?

  • H

    Yeah, let’s rebuild the place so the residents can trash it again.

    Pass.