Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Makeover for Affordable Housing; 2 Jacksonville Nonprofits Partner to Revamp Eastside's Oakland Terrace

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Makeover for Affordable Housing; 2 Jacksonville Nonprofits Partner to Revamp Eastside's Oakland Terrace

Article excerpt

Byline: Beth Reese Cravey

As he walked through the gutted shell of Oakland Terrace Apartments on Jacksonville's Eastside, project superintendent Todd Foreman pointed out some of the surprises that greeted him and his crews when they recently began a long-needed renovation.

In one ground-floor room, there was a brick wall that had been struck by a vehicle. The outside of the wall had been repaired, the inside not so much.

Elsewhere, workers removed a drop ceiling only to find the cement floor from above severely deteriorated by mold after years of hidden water damage.

At one building's entrance, a steel beam across the top of the doorway was rusted through, showing a gaping hole.

When the residents of the federally subsidized housing complex return after the work is completed this year, they will not recognize their homes, said Foreman, who works for The Dantzler Group, general contractor for the renovation.

"They will be so excited," he said.

They will also live safer and healthier lives after the $5 million renovation initiated by new owner Ability Housing of Northeast Florida, which provides affordable housing to the homeless, those at risk of homelessness and adults with a disability.

The Jacksonville-based nonprofit purchased Oakland Terrace from First Baptist Church Oakland Development, which built the complex 40 years ago but put it up for sale in 2009 after being unable to keep up with increasing maintenance needs, said Shannon Nazworth, executive director of Ability Housing.

"This purchase means Oakland Terrace will return to providing quality housing and continue to be affordable," she said.

During the renovation, residents have been relocated to other apartments at Ability Housing's expense. Rhoda Nichols, at Oakland Terrace since 1978, figures the renovation - which includes new appliances and fixtures - will be worth the effort.

"It will be nice," she said.

Oakland Terrace residents had paid 30 percent of their gross income for rent, with the remainder paid through a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development rental assistance contract. Because of "deferred maintenance" and the resulting condition of the complex, HUD was "about to pull" the contract, Nazworth said. …

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