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Craven Terrace renovation plan stirs controversy

By Amber Roberts
Published On: Aug 06 2014 09:25:18 AM CDT
Updated On: Jul 19 2014 04:09:56 PM CDT
NEW BERN, CRAVEN COUNTY -

The Executive Director of the New Bern Housing Authority, Julian Marsh, explains why $27 million is planned to be invested into Craven Terrace for renovations.

Marsh says come this fall, developers are expected to start construction on internal renovations for the public housing complex.

The renovations would cost about $87,000 for each unit. Marsh said the project is a chance to improve the quality of life for Craven Terrace residents.

Marsh says each unit can expect new floors, walls, appliances and layouts. There are also plans to build a laundry facility so residents can get rid of their clothes lines.

Marsh says the majority of the project will be paid for with money that's not coming out of taxpayers' pockets -- including loans, tax credits, and the federal RAD program. The housing authority will be using some of its own money as well.

To give you a breakdown of what Marsh says the money will be used for:    

- $4,035,000 will be used for acquisition -- money for developers to pay for the property.
 - $16,902,724 for construction -- that's the cost of the actual renovations.
 - $6,062,164 goes to soft cost -- which are a range of various fees, including legal fees and developer fees.
 - $848,864 is for reserves -- money set aside if something goes wrong.

All this adds up to $27,848,752. Marsh says the cost to tear down and rebuild would be much more.

This upcoming project isn't coming without some opposition. One person not in favor of the plan is the former New Bern Mayor Lee Bettis.

Bettis said the renovation would be a waste.

"Renovating will not solve the problem. Tearing them down and starting over with a proven model for success will solve the problem," said Bettis. “Everybody knows that these projects are bastions of crime, drugs, abuse and they're not a dignified way to solve the problem of low-income housing."

Craven Terrace Residents Association President Sherri Midgett said the project is just too expensive.

"It ain't fitting to go down like that. This is not what we was promised, this is not what this money is for. How can you take $85,000 and call yourself renovating an apartment that you can't do nothing to?," Midgett asked.

Midgett said the renovation she was told about would be superficial, and would not address the structural issues at the apartments, like mold.

"One resident took a picture and brought it to me. She had a mushroom growing out of her tub," said Midgett. "That needs to be torn down. They are old. Some of them are just plain out raggedy."

Marsh maintains that these upcoming renovations will address the issues and concerns of residents and increase the quality of their current living situations.

There are currently 361 units at Craven Terrace -- but after renovations -- there will be 319. Eight buildings, holding 42 units, will be torn down because they're in a flood zone.

Families who live in those units will be relocated to vacant units within the complex.