Riverview HOPE VI update
by Chuck Hoven

(Plain Press, December 2005) At a November 17th meeting at Riverview Towers at 1791 W. 25th Street, Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority (CMHA) officials and representatives of Ohio City Near West Development Corporation (OCNW) and Telesis Corporation offered an update on the Riverview HOPE VI proposal to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to build 384 units of new mixed income housing in the Ohio City neighborhood. While little new information was offered at the meeting, the small crowd of a little over twenty people allowed officials to answer questions about the project.

CMHA officials noted that they met a September 30th deadline to submit a revised proposal to HUD requesting an extension on the original grant and identifying new sites for the proposed development. They said the revised proposal received approval of HUD with some conditions. HUD has not yet revealed what conditions they will require.

The revised proposal requests additional funds for land acquisition (not in the original proposal) and identifies new sites for the housing. The original site for the new housing, CMHA property behind the Riverview Towers, was deemed too unstable to build upon.

Four new sites were selected on which to build the 384 units of new housing. Eighty-one of those units will be replacement public housing units for residents displaced when their homes were demolished to make way for the project. The new sites put forth in the proposal are: W. 28th and Detroit Avenue (56 units); W. 28th and Church Avenue (74 units); W. 41st and Lorain Avenue (12 units); and Regional Transit Authority land that lies between W. 25th, Lorain Avenue and Columbus Road (242 units).

OCNW Executive Director Joe Mazzola said OCNW and Telesis Corporation are committed to pursuing additional sites to lower the density of the housing proposed for the RTA site,  in response to concerns of residents in the Duck Island neighborhood.

A CMHA official explained that tenants in the 81 public housing units will only pay 30% of their income for rent and utilities as other public housing tenants do. Telesis Corporation will manage the rental units for the first 15 years, at which time the contract could either be renewed or revert back to CMHA for management services. The units are protected as public housing under CMHA ownership.

CMHA Executive Director George Phillips said that, while CMHA would like to build more than 81 public housing units as part of the project, they have received only $8.5 million to build public housing, enough to build only 81 units. Asked whether HOPE VI dollars could have been used to acquire scattered site housing and substantially rehab it (instead of building new housing), Phillips said, “it is theoretically possible, but I don’t know that it would have received funding from HUD.”

When asked why all of the housing units were being built in the Ohio City neighborhood rather than spread out over a number of neighborhoods, Phillips said the major reason was to fulfill commitments made to former residents of the Riverview estates. “We promised they could come back to this neighborhood,” Phillips said.

CMHA and Telesis Corporation officials also said that some creative mortgages could make some of the 303 new for-sale housing units more affordable. Income restrictions tied to the mortgage could be transferable with the property when it is sold making the units more affordable even upon resale.

A Jay Avenue resident expressed concern that the new project offered little in the way of commercial development and green space as proposed in the original HOPE VI proposal made with input from the community. Mazzola said he believes that the new housing on W. 28 by Detroit and at W. 41st and Lorain will help spur development.

Mazzola explained a proposal by OCNW to create an Ohio City Safety Special Improvement District. He said such a district would be entirely dependent upon property owners in the district agreeing to pay an extra tax to pay for extra security.

Mazzola said OCNW’s board has proposed that the original site behind the Riverview Towers be made into a public park and that it be connected to the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail as a trailhead. CMHA Executive Director Phillips “that is something we would seriously look at and consider.”


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