Merrill Housing Authority gets green light for $13.3 million project
Monday afternoon, the Merrill Housing Authority, Horizon Construction Inc. and the City of Merrill announced a $13.3 million rental assistance demonstration (RAD) project through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA).
According to Housing Authority Director Paul Russell, the conversion from public housing into Section 8 housing allows private investors to assist in the capital improvements on public housing built in the 1970s.
The three phase project will include a newly-constructed, 38-unit housing facility with underground parking, a full renovation of the existing Park Place facility to include increasing apartment size by 50%, and renovation of the family housing at Westgate.
“This has been a project in the works for over two years and the WHEDA tax credit approval made it a reality,” Russell explained. “The Housing Authority applied for the WEHDA tax credit last year and missed qualifying by five or six points, based on the point system used in the application and qualification process. This year, we selected Madison-based Horizon Construction to design and construct the new housing facility and they graciously offered to assist with the WHEDA application. They found some areas we lost points on last year, and we were successful in securing the tax credit. I give them all the credit for our success, we couldn’t have done it without them.”
The project will come at zero cost to the city with a majority of the cost (estimated $8 million) coming from private investors in the form of tax equity over the next 10 years, according to Russell. Just over $4 million will be covered by a HA loan from a local financial institution, while an additional $850,000 will be paid as part of a Federal housing assistance grant.
The new 38-unit facility will be constructed at the existing Community Warming Center site at 307 W. Main St. The tri-level facility will feature laundry appliances on each floor, Energy Star-rated windows, a community room and outdoor patio along with heated underground parking as well as surface parking.
While work proceeds on the new facility, upgrades will also be made to the Westgate Apartment complex located on the corner of Water and Thomas streets. Upon completion of those projects, Park Place residents will be temporarily relocated to the new facility while work begins to increase sizes of Park Place apartments.
As Russell further explains, the new facility will not have age restrictions but will have income restrictions.
“There is a misconception by the general public of the Housing Authority expansion only being open for the elderly and that’s just not the case,” the director said. “When finished, the facility will offer affordable, single and double occupancy housing to all Merrill residents and those coming to Merrill from other communities.”
Russell expects ground to break for the project sometime this fall, with a targeted completion date in the fall of 2017.
“Over the next couple of years, I hope this project will be a much needed shot of adrenaline in the arm of the city’s economy,” he added. “We will look to have as much local impact on the project as possible in terms of local businesses and contractors being directly involved. In the end, this project will increase the Housing Authority’s capacity to provide affordable housing to community members in need.”