Monday, November 07, 2005

History is about to be made in � where else? � an historic area in the Park Place neighborhood of Norfolk, Virginia. The cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth and Virginia Beach have just finalized an agreement under which they will provide financial support toward Virginia Supportive Housing's transformation of a Nehi bottling plant into a permanent facility for homeless single adults.

[Photo 1: Corner of 24th St. and Gosnold Avenue]
Corner of 24th St. and Gosnold Avenue. Building was last used to produce cola three years ago.

When the facility � Gosnold Apartments � opens in the fall of 2006, it will be the first regional SRO project in the country that has been funded using HUD funds to serve the homeless.

Under the agreement, the 36,525 square foot building will include 60 efficiency apartments, each with a small kitchen and full bathroom. On-site staff from Virginia Supportive Housing will provide residents � 70 percent of whom will be chronically homeless � with employment skills, literacy and substance abuse recovery programs.

The $5.2 million acquisition and renovation of the building will be funded by CDBG, HOME and general budget funds from the cities, Low Income Housing Tax Credits and grants from the Norfolk Foundation, and the United Way of South Hampton Roads. Ongoing operational support will be provided by 60 Section 8 "mod rehab"rental vouchers � 42 from Norfolk, 12 from Virginia Beach and 6 from Portsmouth. The Gosnold project is part of Norfolk's 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness.

[Photo 2: Elevation views of Gosnold Apartments]
Elevation views of Gosnold Apartments.

"In many areas, regional solutions are very hard to develop," explains Alice Tousignant, Executive Director of Virginia Supportive Housing. "But as these three cities have demonstrated, sometimes a regional approach is the surest and soundest way to marshal finite resources to address problems that cross jurisdictional boundaries. First and foremost these cities deserve credit for their willingness to step forward to address the needs of the homeless in their communities. But just as important is their willingness to join heads and hands to work together to craft an innovative and effective solution to those needs"

Tousignant also noted that since both the building and the surrounding community are potentially historic, her organization and the three cities have worked with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to mitigate any adverse impacts Gosnold Apartments may create. The agreement, in fact, calls for the City of Norfolk to create a special Website describing the historic significance of the predominantly industrial area in the development of Norfolk.

[Photo 3: Aerial architectural rendering of apartment building and site]
Aerial architectural rendering of apartment building and site.

This is not the first time that communities in the Hampton Roads area � Virginia's largest metropolitan area � have "gone regional." In April 2004, 7 city governments and 6 housing authorities reached agreement on the nation's first regional Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing. For more, read HUD's Daily Message of April 30, 2004.

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