They moved a little ground at lunch on Wednesday to take the initial step in building two affordable-housing apartment houses called the Oakhill Jackson Brickstones.
The first of the two buildings in the $19-million project should be open for occupants in 16 months, developer Jack Hatch, principal of Hatch Development Group in Des Moines, told a groundbreaking gathering at the site of one of the buildings, Sixth Street and 12th Avenue SE.
The other apartment building will go up after the first and down the street at Sixth Street and Ninth Avenue SE.
The project — 52 apartments in one building, 45 in the other — is being funded in large part by a combination of federal funds. The funding includes $10 million in low-income housing tax credits and anoth
er $9.1 million in federal stimulus funds.
At Wednesday’s event, Hatch, a state senator, made the point that city leaders here have hammered home since the June 2008 flood. That is, that federal low-income
housing tax credits are used to build attractive, quality apartments for people with jobs. The city has come to called projects like Hatch’s “work force housing.”
Carla Pope, director of affordable rental production with the Iowa Finance Authority, said the Brickstones will be “housing for working families.” She noted that some of the federal funding is coming to the project to create jobs to help the nation’s struggling economy.
Michael Richards, president of the Oakhill Jackson Neighborhood Association, said the Brickstones will go up in a spot in the neighborhood from which people will be able to walk to work at nearby Mercy Medical Center and the downtown.
In welcoming the Hatch project to the neighborhood, Richards noted that a pesky fire at that moment was burning nearby at the old Sinclair packing plant, which is slated for demolition. With the fire and the 2008 flood, Richards said “neither hell nor high water” can keep the neighborhood back.
Dale Todd, the former City Council member and past neighborhood leader who is managing the Brickstones project for Hatch, hosted the groundbreaking event.
Todd recalled two former well-known neighborhood figures, Luther Trent and Juan Cortez, who both worried years ago when they saw a local investor buying up the neighborhood’s modest homes and tearing them down in hopes of replacing the homes with office buildings and other commercial development.
In the last couple years, the city of Cedar Rapids actually has purchased many of those vacant lots, on which new single-family homes now have come to replace housing lost in the flood.
Todd said Trent and Cortez would be happy that Hatch Development intends to add housing to the neighborhood, too.
Among those whom Todd and Hatch singled out Wednesday for contributions to the project was Richard Luther, the city’s development operations manager. Todd said Luther has had a long-standing interest in re-establishing housing in the Oakhill Jackson Neighborhood.
Hatch gave out individual bricks, of which the Brickstones will be made, to a handful of people who helped bring the project to reality. Luther got one of those on behalf of the city.