‘Distressed’ public housing lands $250,000 to create plan for transformation

The federal government has awarded $250,000 for developing a plan to improve Frederick Douglass Homes off 12th Avenue near downtown Phenix City. --
The federal government has awarded $250,000 for developing a plan to improve Frederick Douglass Homes off 12th Avenue near downtown Phenix City. -- Image from Google Maps

As redevelopment of a portion of Riverview Apartments is now moving forward in downtown Phenix City, another public housing complex that is just as old is now getting attention in the form of federal dollars.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded the Housing Authority of Phenix City $250,000 to begin tackling Frederick Douglass Homes off 12th Avenue near the Alabama city’s downtown. It is funded through HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods program.

Like Riverview, part of Frederick Douglass was constructed after the authority’s creation in 1938, with both being expanded in 1952, giving the second apartment complex 272 units in all.

“HUD’s Choice Neighborhoods program promotes a comprehensive approach to transforming neighborhoods struggling to address the interconnected challenges of distressed housing, inadequate schools, poor health, high crime and historic disinvestment,” the federal agency said in a release.

Phenix City was among only six communities to receive money in the latest round of “Choice Neighborhoods” planning funding. The others were the City of Tucson, Ariz., housing authorities in Baltimore, Md., Camden, N.J., and East St. Louis, Ill., and Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis. Altogether, $4.85 million in cash was awarded to the applicants.

The Housing Authority of Phenix City said it expects to begin a “comprehensive planning process” for Frederick Douglass Homes within the next 90 days. Mary Mayrose, housing authority director, Steve Pace, housing authority chair, and Phenix City Mayor Eddie Lowe talked in a release of the “momentum,” “energy,” “progress” and “common vision” that the transformation effort represents for the city and local residents.

The housing authority said it also will be working with various partners in the process to revitalize the public housing. They include the city itself with its various departments, as well as the American Legion, NeighborWorks, Enrichment Services, Troy University, United Way, YMCA, and the local school system.

The Frederick Douglass Homes effort comes with the housing authority now working to transform a portion of 306-unit Riverview Apartments into a mixed-income housing development called Whitewater Village. An Alabama developer has already started tearing down a large portion of Riverview west of Fourth Avenue, with the remaining buildings south of that street designated for a future phase that also will include commercial properties.