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Funding Affordable Housing in the Central Neighborhood

2PM GURA Budget Hearing @ City Hall
GURA is meeting at this unusual, mid-day time to discuss budget amendments. These include two minor changes and one major one. As discussed in their regular meeting on March 11th, the Jefferson County Housing Authority has requested a $400,000 donation from GURA (and an additional $100,000 from the City) to help them purchase the former Golden Motel. They will initially keep it as-is, with 14 apartments, but their plan is to raze the current structure and replace it with something larger and denser. This property is across the street from their Flats on Ford project and a block away from their Lewis Court project.

They will accept public comment and hold a public hearing, then will go into executive session to finish their discussion (which means no public, no cameras).

Public Comment
Five residents of the Central Neighborhood (where the new project will go) attended their last meeting. I commented that the City is concentrating all affordable housing in one small area and encouraged them to use some creativity to find other places to locate some of it. I also said I had been cautiously optimistic about GURA taking on the Central Neighborhoods, because they had made downtown so beautiful. The Central Neighborhoods has not visibly improved–GURA’s only interest to date has been bringing in more affordable housing.

Kristin Wrona pointed out that the Lewis Court apartments (JCHA’s first project in the neighborhood) were out of scale for the existing small, one-story houses in the area, then newer projects used Lewis Court as justification for building taller, denser buildings.

Loretta Huff said she didn’t object to the property as-is, but objected to their plans to redevelop it as something taller and denser. She said they were eroding the value of the neighborhood she loved by making the homes next to the new apartment buildings less desirable. She likened this new project to the Mines 800 bed dorm, which was sprung on the public with little or no input. She asked if GURA was acting in the public interest.

John McEncroe said he disliked the takeover of existing properties and feared that the tiny apartments next to the new neighborhood park would be replaced by another tall building. You can listen to these comments here. They begin about 2 minutes into the meeting.

There were also three emailed comments but those have not been added to the public record.