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Westview Homes demolition complete, construction begins

May 14, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

Contractors have finished demolition of the 50-year-old Westview Homes public housing project and started construction of a replacement community that Hagerstown Housing Authority officials hope will reinvigorate that part of the West End.

The new homes under construction for the $73.5 million Gateway Crossing development are designed to blend in with existing homes, Authority Executive Director Ted Shankle said Friday.

His hope is that people passing through the neighborhood won't be able to easily tell which property is public housing and which isn't, possibly removing some of the stigma of public housing, he said.

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The cost to develop a new home for sale exceeds $150,000 but the authority will sell the new homes for between $69,000 and $79,000, Shankle said.

Buyers of Gateway Crossing homes will be required to live there for at least five years or, if they move earlier, give the profit from the home sale to the authority, Shankle said.

Demolition of the complex began in December and was completed in April, he said.

Construction of the first phase of the development has begun and is scheduled to be completed in the fall. Phase one includes 83 rental homes and 11 to be sold.

Most of the homes are two stories and a few will have garages, authority Grants Coordinator Ron Nair said. The rental units will contain about 1,337 square feet while the homes to be sold will have 1,500 square feet, he said.

A completed model home is scheduled to be available for viewing by the public next month, he said.

In all, the 210-unit complex is being replaced with a 400-home project.

The only Westview Homes building left standing is the community center, which contractor Harkins Builders of Marriotsville, Md., is using as its headquarters for the project.

The project is about six weeks ahead of schedule, Jerry Smith, project manager for the contractor, said Friday. About 70 percent of the subcontractors hired to work on the project are local companies, he said.

In order to demolish the old complex, the nearly 600 residents living in Westview had to move out.

The authority sent the residents a letter last week to update them on the project and to provide information about signing up to rent or buy one of the homes, Shankle said.

Former residents will be given priority over other applicants, provided they meet new criteria: If they are not elderly or disabled, they must have been working for at least one year and have had no problems with their lease, Shankle said.

In addition to the homes, the contractor has begun construction of a $4.5 million community center at Elgin Park, he said.

The Elgin Station community center will be open and accessible to all West End residents, not just those in public housing.

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