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Community News: South

WATTS : All of Jordan Downs to Be Modernized

September 05, 1993|SANDRA HERNANDEZ

Alberta King finally got the call she was waiting for after nearly 13 years at the Jordan Downs housing project.

King, 39, was among the first residents of the housing development to learn that it will undergo a massive modernization project.

"I'm so happy, you can't imagine how happy I am," King said. "We don't have showers, and the roaches are so bad here."

The modernization plan will involve moving 40 families out of two buildings in the housing project. Their apartments will be refurbished and used as temporary shelter for other residents of the project whose apartments will be modernized and fumigated. All 690 units at Jordan Downs will undergo lead abatement and modernization over a two-year period. Of those, 180 have already been structurally remodeled.

The 40 families in the current stage of the project began moving to Section 8 housing late last month. They were given the choice of moving back to Jordan Downs after construction is complete, but most have opted to move out permanently, according to housing officials.

For now, the only sign of the planned construction is boarded-up windows at an empty apartment building on Grape Street. Housing authority officials predict the first group of residents will move into the temporary apartments by November.

"It's not going to be the Hilton, but it will be fine," said Housing Authority spokesman Marshall Kandell.

Although modernization is part of a citywide plan to update housing projects built nearly 40 years ago, Kandell said the program at Jordan Downs is unique because it combines modernization, lead abatement and fumigation.

The program at Jordan Downs is divided into two stages. During the first phase of work, which began in 1991, the housing authority allocated $4 million to modernize 180 units at Jordan Downs. Construction was primarily structural and was halted when authorities realized more extensive work was necessary, including lead abatement.

The second phase will include updating plumbing, electrical wiring, fumigation and lead abatement, Kandell said.

"The project is 40 years old, and electricity and plumbing systems are inadequate," said Howard Wasserman, manager of Jordan Downs. "Before, there was never enough money to do more than a Band-Aid approach."

Housing Authority officials declined to estimate how much the modernization project will cost, citing continuing negotiations with contractors.

However, most of the funding is expected to come from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

HUD is expected to provide up to $125 million in comprehensive improvement grant money to the Housing Authority over the next five years, according to Kandell.

For now, the Housing Authority estimates it will spend about $2.4 million to move residents and store their belongings during construction.

The modernization plan has been met with apprehension from some residents slated to move to the temporary apartments, many of whom fear they will not be allowed to return to their own apartments, King said.

"I've had a lot of residents say to me, 'I don't want to move, even if it's to modernize,' " said King, who is vice president of the residents' management council.

"But they don't realize this is the best thing that could have happened."

Housing Authority officials said they hope the first group of residents who take part in the program will help dispel concerns of other residents.

"We're confident that once they see how everything is done, their suspicions will leave," Kandell said.

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