Thursday, November 09, 2000

Housing plans backed

By Terry Flynn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        NEWPORT — Officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development expressed satisfaction with the way the Newport Housing Authority and city officials are planning to use $28 million in federal Hope VI grant funds.

        Mark Brown, Housing Authority executive director, told authority board members Wednesday that the HUD representatives from Washington and Louisville spent two days here recently, visiting various possible housing sites in Newport and assessing how plans are being assembled locally to move low-income residents into new housing.

        “Mayor (Tom) Guidugli personally took the HUD people on a tour of the city, and I think they were very impressed that a mayor would take that kind of interest,” Mr. Brown said. The mayor is also a member of the Housing Authority board.

        The Hope VI grant is to help finance residential construction and renovation of existing properties so residents of the 202 units of public housing in the project along Fourth Street can move into those locations over the next four to five years.

        The housing project buildings will eventually be torn down and the property will be developed, possibly as a mix of commercial, office space and condominiums.

        Jan Rubin, the Philadelphia-based consultant who put together the successful Hope VI grant application and is working with the Housing Authority on the relocation and development projects, said she was pleased with the HUD visit.

        “It was a good meeting, because nothing happened,” she said. “Everything went very smoothly. The HUD officials were satisfied with how we are proceeding.”

        Mr. Brown announced that a kickoff celebration for the Hope VI project, with the entire city and state officials — including the governor — as invited guests, will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. Nov. 19 at the Housing Authority ball field.

        The board members also heard Wednesday from architect David Arends, president of ArchitectureOne Inc., the consultant working with the Housing Authority on renovations to the Grand Tower elderly apartment high rise.

        Mr. Arends reviewed a preliminary project budget and cost analysis report that he emphasized was not a bid for any type of construction at Grand Tower but merely a schematic cost estimate.

        Initial plans call for a total renovation of the 11-story structure on Grand Avenue near I-471, probably doing away with all or most of the efficiency units in favor of all one-bedroom apartments, lowering the total number of units from 198 to 132.

        Mr. Arends set an estimate of the total cost of the proposed project at $4,987,925.

        That would include renovation and improvement of resident apartments; corridor and public-space improvements; improvements to the lobby and main floor public and support area; parking and outdoor activity improvements; and building infrastructure improvements. There is no timetable yet for beginning construction at Grand Tower.

        Mr. Brown also told board members that the Housing Authority's HUD-sponsored gun-buyback program would take place Dec. 1, but Newport Police officials were still working on a central location.

        The buyback, similar to those conducted in cities around the United States, will offer $50 for every gun brought to the site by a Newport resident, with no questions asked. The Housing Authority has $10,000 earmarked for the buyback, which would enable officials to purchase a maximum of 200 firearms.

        Police will check the guns in the crime computer to determine whether they are stolen and could possibly be returned to the owner, or whether the firearm has historic/collector value. Otherwise, all the guns bought will be destroyed.


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