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Developer explains planned housing project

April 18, 2001

Developer explains planned housing project



KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

kimy@herald-mail.com

If a plan to demolish Westview homes is funded, the community that will be built to replace it will revitalize the West End, developers said Tuesday.

Robert C. Totaro, of Pennrose Properties Inc. of Philadelphia, said the $70 million project wouldn't be a traditional low-income housing development.

Totaro told about 25 area residents attending a meeting at the Westview Community Center that the plan is to create a selective community with mixed incomes levels. The 210 units at Westview Homes would be replaced with 150 public housing units, 140 nonpublic housing units and 110 private homes, he said.

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"It has tremendous potential to improve the area," he said.

The housing complex would have social service programs designed to give residents a better way of life, said Totaro.

New residents of the housing development would have to meet income guidelines and other criteria, he said.

He estimated that the funding application would be submitted around June and the outcome known by late summer or early fall.

Hagerstown Housing Authority Executive Director Ted Shankle said the desire is to challenge preconceptions of low-income housing projects.

"This won't be public housing. It will be a mixed income community in which some residents receive assistance," said Shankle.

He said standards for eligibilty would be high and purchasers of the new homes would have to meet the approval of private lenders.

A $42 million Westview redevelopment plan was denied federal funding last year. A version of the redevelopment plan presented in February had a $50 million price tag. Both plans called for building 330 new units.

The most recent plan calls for 400 new homes and a wider scope, which developers hope will make it more appealing to the office of Housing and Urban Development.

"It's not a slam dunk," but the project has a good prospect of being funded, said Totaro.

He said the company will reapply if HUD turns them down again.

West End resident Melissa Pierre asked how Westview's residents will be relocated after their homes are demolished.

Residents would receive help finding places to live, transportation and child care, developers said.

About 70 families typically move out of Westview each year and if funding for the project is approved the Hagerstown Housing Authority won't rent units as they become empty. That would mean fewer residents would need to be relocated.

The developers estimated that 17 percent of the existing residents will return after the new homes are built.

Pierre appealed to the public to give Westview residents a chance.

"Just because we live in the projects, people think we're trash," she said. "They look down on us. But if you get to know us - a lot of us are nice people."

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