Rutland’s Forest Park housing project has been undergoing a $22 million affordable housing makeover that many say has turned a problem into an asset.
For years, neighbors described Forest Park – a 7-acre cluster of apartment buildings that housed 300 low-income residents – as a troublesome eyesore. The police even had a substation there.
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Granted, public housing built in the 1960s and ’70s is not known for its architectural charm. There are the concrete high-rises that you see in just about every large city and also the more blocky two-story type buildings.
Rutland had both types, says Kevin Loso, director of the Rutland Housing Authority which oversees the new housing complex.
“I think one of the philosophies back in the early days was that you did not want to build public housing in a way that would compete with the open market,” he says.
Forest Park, with 75 apartments, was one of Rutland’s largest public housing projects. It was built in 1971 and looked it – with nondescript brick buildings, identical cement stoops and minimal landscaping.
“It was very isolated from the rest of the community,” Loso says. “You could only enter it from an access road.”
By 2002, he says they began to look at how to make Forest Park more energy-efficient, more integrated in the community, more attractive and more diverse.
But finding funding would take years. The land lacked proper drainage – a major obstacle – and the old apartment buildings contained asbestos, which though contained, made remodeling cost-prohibitive.
So Loso says they started from scratch, tearing down the old and building something entirely different.
“We actually moved a city street, to accommodate development on both sides,” he says.
That made the development look more like a regular neighborhood, says Loso. When it’s finished, traffic will be able to pass through, connecting the apartments to the rest of the ctiy.
The first 33 units…