Thursday, March 4, 2010

Partners for Better Housing to have final say in selecting firm to plan low-income housing project in woods and wetland along south Fayetteville stream

Design Firm Chosen


By Skip Descant

Thursday, March 4, 2010

FAYETTEVILLE — Protecting water and trees was a high priority in the selection of a landscape architecture and engineering firm to design plans for an affordable housing community in the Walker Park neighborhood in south Fayetteville.

“We don’t want to just have the typical mow everything down and start over,” said Kyle Cook, a Fayetteville alderman and a member of the selection committee that chose Community By Design as the firm to work on the Houses at Willow Bend project.

At least half of the proposed development’s rental units will be accessible to low- and very low-income residents — four-person families earning less than either $39,300 or $24,550, respectively. Homes for sale will be priced between $100,000 and $125,000.

The project involves construction of a 72-unit mixed rental and owner-occupied housing development on a 7.7-acre site along Washington Avenue between Ninth and 11th streets. The site is fairly wooded and includes a stream.

“We want to work with what’s there,” Cook said.

Karen Minkel, director of Fayetteville strategic planning and internal consulting, also served on the selection committee.

“Broadly, the selection committee looked at firms that demonstrated familiarity with the site, engineering and landscape architecture experience with both affordable housing and mixed-income housing projects,” Minkel said.

“And there’s also an architect,” Cook noted. “I thought that was a good addition, to have an architect on board.”

Brian Teague, owner of Community By Design, could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

The $8 million to $10 million project is being led by the Fayetteville Partners For Better Housing, an extension of the Fayetteville Housing Authority. In December, the nonprofit group requested $150,000 from the Fayetteville Public Facilities Board to pay for the preliminary design stage of the project. That money did not come through, said Hugh Earnest, a member of Fayetteville Partners’ board of directors.

“We’ve gone ahead and continued the effort to hire a landscape architect and we just have to figure out how to pay them,” Earnest said Wednesday as he drove back to Fayetteville from New Orleans, where he was attending an affordable housing conference.

Earnest said he’s looking at a variety of funding options.

“There’s no silver bullet,” he said.

“We are hopeful that we can pull enough stuff together so that we can get a federal home loan in March or April,” Earnest said. Federal Home Loan Banks provide low-cost funding for lending institutions to be used for home financing for affordable housing, small businesses and other uses.

Another option, said Earnest, could be federal stimulus money through Community Development Block Grants.

Twelve design firms competed for the project. The list was culled to three: Community By Design, Appian Centre for Design and McClelland Consulting Engineers, all of which have offices in Fayetteville.

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