The corner of Ninth Avenue and Fourth Street south has a brand new building-and it’s completely paid for.
Located at 914 Fourth Street South, The Columbus Housing Authority moved into their new building in October but celebrated their grand opening last week.
The 5,200 square foot building boasts brand new office equipment, two fire proof safes, a state of the art board room and private counseling rooms along with offices and an open lobby.
The idea for the project began back in 2004. Director Earl Weeks says that they initially intended to remodel their current building on Fourth Avenue in front of Avenue A and B but “it would cost us half a million to remodel and we still wouldn’t have enough room.”
The Authority then decided to build and began looking at possible land options. The lot that now houses the new facility was purchased from First Baptist Church in 2005 and after a series of environmental testing, was deemed suitable to build.
Designed by Johnson and Bailey Architects and built by West Brothers Construction, the project broke ground in January and was open to the public by October. It took approximately 1.48 million dollars to build the new facility but Weeks says it was all funded through “reserve funds” they accumulated over a six year period.
The Columbus Housing Authority is separate from The Regional Housing Authority and is over the Shield Sims Apartment Complex, William Washington Complex, TV James Complex and William Roberts Complex. Weeks says that he is aware of the negative connotation associated with low income housing but “we’re proud of what we’ve done here.”
Weeks noted the infamous Desire projects in New Orleans and the Cabrini-Green Projects in Chicago saying those complexes “have significant problems. We don’t have that here.”
With 480 families and 1500 people living in the various locations, Weeks stresses that safety for the residences is key. The complex has a police officer on site as well as additional security. If a tenant is arrested and charged for any of the forbidden crimes, they are evicted within 72 hours. “We want to offer them a sense of safety and security” Weeks added. “We’re going to keep it safe.”
Eligibility for the housing is determined by the tenant’s income. Weeks says each tenant must also undergo a police screening. If an applicant has been convicted of a Type One felony, Battery and/or Assault, Domestic Violence or a Weapons charge or drug related offence of any kind, they are not allowed to live in the complex for seven years. The exception to that rule is if the tenant who has been convicted of a drug related charge undergoes and passes “an acceptable counseling program”.
Looking around the new building and gesturing towards a family sitting in the lobby, Weeks says “We want to give people somewhere decent and safe to raise their families. We have that here. My hope is that they will improve their lives and continue to reach up and step towards home ownership. I believe we can help them get there.”