December 21, 2014

Elyria
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Housing Authority presents Wilkes Villa revamp plan

ELYRIA — The vision of Wilkes Villa’s future includes a green development where fewer housing units are built on more acreage.

At a public meeting to discuss the master plan for the south Elyria public housing complex, Dominick Durante Jr., president of LDA Architects, the firm the Lorain Metropolitan Housing Authority is using on the project, said the plan is to reduce the 174 housing units to a 150-unit development.

Not only will fewer units be built, the agency will move away from five- and six-bedroom units, which are designed for families with multiple children.

“Traditional public housing is problematic because it’s denser. A lower density makes it a more tolerable living environment,” Durante said. “We are trying to make a greener, better place for residents to live.”

The revelation that fewer units and families will be living at Wilkes Villa was met with some reservation from those in the audience, who wondered if the reduction will displace residents or put a strain on the available affordable housing in Lorain County. Questions about whether families would be placed in other scattered housing or public housing options in the county also followed the announcement.

John McMahon, the authority’s assistant executive director, said it’s too soon to discuss housing alternatives for residents because the master plan is still very much in the conceptual phase — the agency has not secured funding for any construction beyond an initial phase that will begin late this year or early 2014.

In that phase, one prototype housing unit, an administrative and maintenance facility and a combination child care and satellite clinic of Lorain County Health and Dentistry will be built for $2 million.

“We don’t know when we will have the funding to do this,” McMahon said. “It could be 3 to 5 years before we can even apply for funding.”

Executive Director Homer Virden said the project will be funded through layered funding from tax credits and federal housing grants.

Councilman Marcus Madison, D-5th Ward, said the Wilkes Villa master plan is another sign Elyria is turning a significant corner.

“The redevelopment of Wilkes Villa is critically important to the ongoing revitalization of the neighborhood,” he said. “A neighborhood’s success requires a strategic vision, and this effort brings together residents, city representatives, developers and community leaders to implement a bold plan for improving the 5th Ward and the quality of life of its residents.”

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