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'Taft Homes' no more: 'Providence Pointe' will be the new name for troubled Peoria low-incoming housing complex

Taft updated rendering2 - Sept 2021.jpg
Peoria Housing Authority
An updated rendering of the new Taft Homes provided to WCBU in September of 2021.
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After Thursday, Taft Homes will be known as Providence Pointe.

The name change will be formally announced during a groundbreaking ceremony at 11:30 a.m. Thursday at the low-income housing complex.

Financial closing has taken place and Bear Development, of Wisconsin, officially owns and manages Taft.

The redevelopment project — years in the making — takes advantage of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development's Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program.

The program transitions public housing into Section 8 housing and allowed the Peoria Housing Authority to leverage private capital to fund the redevelopment project.

Demolition will be done in phases; existing residents were relocated on-site and throughout the city.

The first phase of demolition of existing Taft Homes units is slated for this month.

During Monday’s Peoria Housing Authority (PHA) board meeting, acting director Jackie Newman said “Providence Pointe” is firm, and that the name will not change.

She said the name was the result of a year-long process in which ideas were collected from Taft Homes residents, staffers and PHA board commissioners, and later narrowed down to Providence Pointe.

Latasha Peary, a former Taft Homes resident and new member of the PHA board, said she wasn’t aware of the effort to solicit public feedback on the new name of Taft Homes. Newman said the board went “door to door” collecting ideas over the last year.

Newman said PHA staff went “door to door” at Taft asking residents for input on name ideas. The new name, she added, is firm, and will not change.

“We’ve been undergoing trying to identify a name for the last year or so,” she said. “We did outreach to our families, we did public hearings … we did door to door knocks with staff, literally going door to door with the surveys, surveying the commissioners. It’s been a plethora of things over the last year.”

Q&A: Interim Peoria Housing Authority Director Jackie Newman Answers Questions On Taft Redevelopment

Newman invited the public to attend Thursday’s groundbreaking.

Efforts to redevelop Taft Homes have been ongoing for decades. Built in 1952, Taft was originally intended to serve as temporary housing for veterans of the Korean War.

In recent years, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has issued multiple “failing” inspections at Taft.

Newman said the cost to address needed repairs at Taft far exceeds the cost to redevelop, a fact that helped the PHA secure the financing it needed to pursue the $43 million redevelopment with Bear Development.

The redevelopment was slated to begin earlier this year. The process of relocating tenants was not a smooth one.

In late August, the Gardner family of seven was asked to live in two combined units at the back end of the complex.

Dozens of community members rallied to support the family after mother Direna Gardner protested conditions inside the combined units.

She was initially asked to relocate Aug. 23, but refused after finding maggots inside a toilet, water damage, uncapped outlets and other issues.

Family Of 7 Fights For Better Living Conditions At Taft Homes: 'You Can't Treat A Dog Like This'

Following WCBU's coverage, the Housing Authority agreed to correct issues related to water damage and perform a mold test before asking the Gardner family to move. Gardner moved in last week.

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Hannah Alani is a reporter at WCBU. She joined the newsroom in 2021. She can be reached at hmalani@ilstu.edu.