Q&A: Wisconsin Developer Answers Questions On Taft Homes/Providence Pointe Redevelopment
Wisconsin-based developer Bear Development has officially taken over Peoria's Taft Homes, a public housing complex undergoing a $43 million redevelopment.
Now known as Providence Pointe, the 1952-era complex will continue to house 95 households as units are demolished and rebuilt in phases.
Bear Development’s portfolio includes multiple projects utilizing Rental Assistance Demonstration – the same federal program the Peoria Housing Authority is using to leverage capital to redevelop Taft Homes.
After a groundbreaking ceremony this month, Bear Development's Adam Templer talked with WCBU about what residents can expect moving forward. During the interview, he confirmed the Taft tenants who remained on-site during the redevelopment will be given dibs on newly constructed Providence Pointe units once they are completed.
Adam Templer: There's going to be construction activity on site, there's going to be, you know, a lot of change coming. So we recognize that it's not the easiest time for residents, but we're really hopeful that, you know, when it's all done, it's going to be really worth it. It's going to be a fully transformed site with great units for all the residents and great community space that hopefully everybody will be proud of … And be proud to be part of the Providence Pointe community.
Hannah Alani: How are you going to support tenants through this transition process?
Adam Templer: We and the Housing Authority are partners, we're long-term partners on this. We're dealing with this the same way we deal with all the other ones. We have a transition process that's in place that started now. Evergreen Real Estate Group is a new on-site property manager, so they're working day to day with the residents. There's a transition that happens when we transfer over from the public housing to Section 8. So … the other 95 households need to go through the same process of getting a new lease in place, writing out new rent checks to new groups. They have kickoff meetings with the residents. They’ll reach out to the residents. So it's a long trust building process. And it starts after closing.
Hannah Alani: I think, you know, you're walking into a situation where you have a lot of tenants, where every time they call, they feel like they're not given a straight answer. They feel like they're not getting the right information. And now they have an entirely new landlord, right? If you could just kind of speak, like you do have the mic, if you could just kind of speak to all of these tenants here who are about to not just be dealing with PHA, but also with your group, what would you like to say to them?
Adam Templer: I’ll say what we say to all of our residents. Residents are the number one priority, and we work with these residents individually to make sure that they have any questions answered and concerns addressed. It's a process from a closing, we have about two weeks to get new leases in place for 100 different households, right. So it's a long process to reach out to those households to get a lease in front of them, to explain the lease, explain the transition. There have been ongoing meetings with residents for the past two years that we've been involved. We've had, you know, six to eight meetings with residents and held forums to answer those questions. But it's always very, you know. … We recognize that with the demolition of the units, it is a hardship for residents, right, asking people to move temporarily to a new unit, and that it is a change for them.
One of the priorities that we have is making sure people stayed on site, if that's what they desired. You know, there are a lot of families at Taft, so school schedules, and keeping with school schedules at the same schools is really critical. That's why the priority was put on keeping residents on site and perhaps result in a situation of, you know, needing to combine two units to accommodate residents. There were some other options that residents had too, with transferring to a different site. There was mentioned, East Bluff … but it was all based on household size. So if your household needs a four bedroom, and there aren't four bedrooms at that other site, then it wasn't an option for that household to transfer.
So you know, we work the best we can with the residents. We have staff resources at Bear and the onsite staff with Evergreen, and then PHA, to hopefully address questions, and as things come up, and they will come up, we'll work with each resident to make sure their concerns are addressed.
Hannah Alani: Is there a designated point person or couple of people … moving forward? You know, if I'm a resident of Taft, and I have a question about something, who, specifically, do I call at Evergreen?
Adam Templer: That’s Jessica, who’s the on-site manager and she was formerly with PHA and now with Evergreen, so you know that was critical too, to have some consistency with the transition, I thought that it would be having, you know, a familiar face to residents, and someone they're used to dealing with, you know, carryover.
Hannah Alani: We did have a story come out this week about AFSCME, the local union. Jessica used to be a member. From the AFSCME perspective, your company kind of ‘courted’ Jessica away from PHA. Is that an accurate description of what happened?
Adam Templer: I would say that positions were posted. I think when there was a transition to coming off of the public housing and into the RAD program, PHA staff … were given an option. Internally, options. We posted positions as well. And we being Evergreen posted. And people were allowed to apply for positions as they saw fit. If you have someone who is in place that's been doing a good job and is familiar with residents and how the property works, certainly it's helpful to have consistency.
Hannah Alani: Obviously, the news, local media has been covering this for the last 10 years, but specifically Bear’s involvement for the last, you know, two and a half years. Is there anything that you feel is just not being covered, or something that we're not getting quite right, as we're covering this? Or any kind of major, final takeaways you want our listeners to have from this news story?
Adam Templer: Yeah, I would say we're excited about the transformation. I think everybody recognizes the need for Taft and the significant capital needs, which is why the decision was made to kind of start over, right? Take the units down and start over with new units to give the residents the quality affordable housing that that PHA desires. So we're excited to be partnering with the PHA. We are appreciative of the trust that they put into us.
It's a difficult process for everybody, right? And again, I said before, but recognize that it is, it's a change for residents. It's a change dealing with, you know, Evergreen and us, and with PHA, rather than just PHA. It's a change asking people to move, even if it's just across, you know, a parking lot, to a different unit.