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Published: Wednesday, 12/8/2010

Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority renovates dozens of homes with $6.43M

Adrian Hawkins and his three boys hardly recognized their place Wednesday when they returned home after a major renovation by the Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority.

A fresh coat of paint and new carpet throughout greeted the single father and his sons. Gone was the outdated carpet from the kitchen, now transformed with linoleum flooring, faux marble counter tops, and new honey-colored cabinets. Peeling vinyl molding was swapped for solid hardwood baseboards, and all interior doors were replaced.

The best part of the home makeover at 5869 Tetherwood Drive was a new garage that replaced a shed in the rear alley of the Washington Township neighborhood, Mr. Hawkins said.

Returning after several months, 10-year-old Ben Hawkins swore that even the closets seemed bigger. They weren't, but new swinging doors made them seem so.

"We couldn't wait to move back," Mr. Hawkins, 33, said. "They did a real good job."

The renovation is among dozens of projects funded by a $6.43 million stimulus grant awarded to the LMHA in March, 2009. The housing authority counts on about $5 million in federal funding every year, and the extra stimulus funds allowed projects in the housing authority's five-year master plan to be completed before 2012.

Adrian Hawkins, left, gets the keys to a newly renovated Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority home from property manager DeAnna Ellis. In the background are his sons, Adrian, Jr., 14, and Ben, 10. Adrian Hawkins, left, gets the keys to a newly renovated Lucas Metropolitan Housing Authority home from property manager DeAnna Ellis. In the background are his sons, Adrian, Jr., 14, and Ben, 10.

About 68 percent of the stimulus funds will be spent on improvement projects for dwellings, such as new roofs at five high-rise apartments and one major complex; interior renovations of the Hawkins' home and four-unit homes on Brooke Park Drive and Gribbin Lane in West Toledo, Cresthaven Lane in South Toledo, and Banquot Way in Springfield Township; and new roofs and siding for multiple scattered sites in Sylvania and Washington townships.

The remaining funds are to be spent on new backup electrical generators at five high-rise apartments, upgraded security systems for all sites, sidewalk improvements, and landscaping.

"We're just at the tip of the iceberg with what we want to do," said Michael Shea, LMHA director of redevelopment and modernization.

Unrelated to the stimulus funds will be the planned overhaul of Brand Whitlock Apartments, a complex built in the 1930s that Mr. Shea and other housing authority officials call "functionally obsolete."

Relocation of residents in the complex could start as soon as the first several months of next year. The complex ultimately will be razed and redeveloped.

Both Mr. Shea and Project Coordinator Kara Lennard, who supervised the renovation of the Hawkins' home, are licensed architects hired within the last year. Both approached the renovation projects as if the sites would be shown as mainstream rental properties, rather than as low-income housing. Traditionally, low-income sites may be constructed with the lowest cost materials, Ms. Lennard said, though the practice has evolved to spending more for materials as attractive as they are durable.

"We would like to think of, 'What would I really want if I was renting?' We're trying to get away from, 'It's good enough for them,' which is horrible," Ms. Lennard said.

Mr. Hawkins has spent months living with his sons at another site owned by the housing authority in the Point Place neighborhood of North Toledo, and said he spent $10 or $15 in gas per day driving the children to their schools in the Washington Local School District. Wednesday, he looked on as Isaiah, 11, waited for the bus in his front yard with about a dozen other neighborhood children.

"It's almost like coming back to a brand-new place," he said. "It's good to be back. We just couldn't wait to be back."

Contact Bridget Tharp at: btharp@theblade.com or 419-724-6086.

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