By: Pete Scholz, Channel 12 News, Phoenix, April 23, 2015
An historic Phoenix neighborhood which was slated to be demolished a few years ago is experiencing a renaissance, of sorts. Residents took in the latest plans at a community meeting in the Coffelt Public Housing Development Thursday.
To look at the 38 acres of 1950’s barrack-style housing occupying the southwest corner of 19th Avenue and Buckeye near downtown Phoenix is to get a glimpse of Arizona’s history. And, generations of residents have called the Coffelt-Lamoreaux Public Housing Development home.
“The folks that live at Coffelt take an extreme level of pride for where they live,” Brian Swanton, president of the Arizona Market for Gorman & Company says. “They didn’t want to move and they were loud and clear about that. They wanted to stay.”
Over the past two years a unique, public-private relationship was forged to make sure that was going to happen.
Oscar Perdolmo is a 13-year resident of the neighborhood just southwest of downtown. “I’m excited because I like living here,” he said. “I like my neighbors and the people I live with. It’s very calm.”
Excitement grew when the Housing Authority of Maricopa County and their partners at Gorman & Company were able to win National Historic Registration for the site built back in 1953. The designation, along with additional financing, has resulted in a $44 million makeover about to launch in the coming months.
“It’s basically a gut rehabilitation, as we call it,” Swanton explained. “We’re preserving the exterior facade of the buildings but everything will be brand new inside — the bones of the building.”
Swanton also shared that $90,000 has been budgeted for each of the 301 units to be redone. From the floors to the roofs, upgrades will include cabinetry, appliances, sinks and flooring. Well-worn swamp coolers will also be scrapped for new heating and air conditioning units.
In addition, plans are also in place to temporarily move tenants to unoccupied units during construction, which should add a little more peace of mind to anxious residents.
“They came in my home and took an inventory of all of my equipment; all of my furniture,” Antonio Cabrera, a nine-year resident said. “To make sure that they can move it with no cost for myself once the renovations get under way.”
The project is also adding a new and improved park and community center. And, the developer is hoping to improve air quality in the neighborhood by improving irrigation and planting more trees along connecting streets.
According to Gorman & Company, the Coffelt renovation is scheduled to begin on or around October 1, 2015, and last about 17 months. Interest in the program is growing, as well. Housing Authority of Maricopa County says that the waiting list to move into one of the newly-renovated units stands at 1,000 names.