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Posted on Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 5:57 a.m.

Work set to begin on $16 million housing project renovation in Ypsilanti

By Tom Perkins


The former Parkview Apartments public housing complex, shown last year, in Ypsilanti will be extensively renovated under a $16 million project set to break ground this week.

Tom Perkins | For

The “Gateway to Ypsilanti” will reach another important marker in its long turnaround on Tuesday.

Key players in the former Parkview Apartments housing project’s ambitious $16 million redevelopment will gather from 3 to 5 p.m. at the complex — now called Hamilton Crossing — for a groundbreaking ceremony.


An architect's rendering of the Hamilton Crossing project.

Work is expected to begin this May, and officials are hopeful residents can begin moving back into the abandoned complex at the corner of South Hamilton and Harriet Streets by the end of 2011.

The ceremony comes after the city Planning Commission approved site plans for the project on Wednesday night. It also comes nearly a year after a settlement ended six years of litigation among multiple parties over the complex’s fate.

Plans call for the renovation of 17 buildings and the demolition and rebuilding of two others. Each unit will see a full makeover and receive new drywall, floors, appliances, kitchens, bathrooms, front patios and back decks. Bricks will be re-stained, new siding installed, new rooflines created and, in some units, bay windows installed.

Several buildings will be made handicap accessible. Outside the buildings, new sidewalks will be installed, along with three new playgrounds. New landscaping is planned throughout the complex, including a berm set between the property and Hamilton Street. Plans are also in place to expand the community center by 2,000 square feet.

City Planner Teresa Gillotti said planners were aware of the complex’s history during the design process and wanted to make Hamilton Crossing look “dramatically different” from Parkview Apartments.

“We really want to change the physical impact of the buildings so it looks brand new,” she said.

Planners are moving ahead with phase two of the project because they were able to secure funding for it quicker. In that that phase, 74 “affordable housing” units will be completed and made available to people with low to moderate incomes.

Vicki Vaughn, a spokesperson for the project’s developer, Chesapeake Community Advisors, said the way in which affordable housing is calculated in the area would allow for a working family earning $50,000 annually to live in Hamilton Crossing.

In the next phase, 70 units are slated for renovation and will be available to residents with section 8 housing vouchers.

One of the last significant steps in the complex’s recent history came last June, when the Ypsilanti City Council approved the purchase of the Hamilton Street complex by the Ypsilanti Housing Commission.

The sale to the housing commission from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development was part of a settlement approved last May by U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts between the Parkview Tenants Association and HUD.

Since then, the housing commission and Chesapeake have worked to secure grants and private investment to fund the project.

Chesapeake will receive $5.7 million — approximately $40,000 per unit — in an immediate HUD Up-Front grant that will be split between the project’s two phases.

The Washtenaw County Office of Community Development is contributing an additional $500,000 in grants, including $460,000 for the first phase and $40,000 for the second phase.


Leiasha Wallace, granddaughter of Amanda Wallace, sits on her family's front porch last June at the former Parkview Apartments, now called Hamilton Crossing.

Tom Perkins | For

The project’s second phase, which is getting underway first, is also funded by $988,000 in federal tax credits made available through the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. Those credits were purchased by Boston Financial, generating $7.2 million in capital. Because that equity won’t all come up front, Key Bank also loaned $4.2 million for construction that will be quickly repaid by Boston Financial.

Phase one of the project will utilize a $3.5 million Federal Housing Authority loan. No timeline is available on when phase one construction might begin.

The groups have also worked to set up a system of safeguards to ensure the same issues that plagued Parkview aren’t repeated. Ypsilanti Mayor Paul Schreiber, a former housing commission chairman, said he is confident the same abuses and issues that led to Parkview’s deterioration won't be repeated.

Former tenants alleged they paid money toward utility bills, but the management company never made paid the Ypsilanti Community Utility Authority. The complex’s water was shut off on several occasions. Under the May settlement, HUD agreed to pay all outstanding utility bills and $700,000 in back taxes.

Residents also complained about sewage back-ups, plumbing problems, mice, animals in the ceilings, holes in the walls and ceilings, flooding and mold. Crime and drugs were a serious issue until most people moved out. At the time of the complex’s closing last summer, around 20 units out of 144 remained occupied.

Overall there was a lack of accountability Schreiber said won’t exist now.

As part of the arrangement, the new management company will report directly to a Hamilton Crossing governing board comprised of three housing commissioners, Schreiber and a community member. Schreiber said he hopes the board will expand to include someone with management experience.

Schreiber said greater oversight will also come from the investors and developers. Chesapeake has a long-term interest in the project, and isn't simply leaving after the renovation, Schreiber said.

“The investor will be a partner for 15 years, so there will be more oversight,” Vaughn said of Boston Financial. “They are interested in being sure that the units are rented to the right folks and the property is maintained.”

A third safeguard in place is greater oversight by city council. As part of the sale agreement between the Housing Commission and HUD, the Ypsilanti City Council must approve the management company’s contract. If problems with management are reported, council can force a change.

Schreiber said the community will also benefit from housing residents with a wider range of incomes.

“There are a lot of winners here and a lot of things to be thankful for all the way around,” Schreiber said.

U.S. Rep John Dingell, who played a significant role in the project, will attend the groundbreaking.

Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter for Reach the news desk at or 734-623-2530.


Jay Thomas

Wed, Apr 27, 2011 : 12:31 a.m.

More money down a rathole. I swear this is the third place like this I've read about here to the east of A2. Ypsilanti is the ONLY town around here that I know of where the majority of its inhabitants are renters. Is that something that you want to maintain? Because if it is then Ypsilanti will ALWAYS be in that lower socio-economic demographic and all the talk by politicians to turn Ypsi around is just a pie in the sky fantasy.


Tue, Apr 26, 2011 : 7:11 p.m.

This is a complete and utter waste of money . . . . again.


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 11:19 p.m.

Level the place. Then take the money and build a brand new housing project in Ann Arbor in either Burns Park or the old West Side. A2 can use a little economic diversity.


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 7:38 p.m.

These comments are full of gross generalizations about & NIMBY assumptions about public housing. Reading the comments in the forum, one would walk away from the article thinking that this area was some crime and drug den of Washtenaw County, and since the accompanying article is so lacking of actual hard data, that very false over-generalization can't be refuted. The article just says "...Residents also complained about sewage back-ups, plumbing problems, mice, animals in the ceilings, holes in the walls and ceilings, flooding and mold. Crime and drugs were a serious issue until most people moved out..." but gives no figures or actual numbers as to if crime or drugs were problems at a lower or higher rate than neighboring parts of the city.


Tue, Apr 26, 2011 : 12:38 p.m.

tdw - that's not true at all. Actually, more violent crime happens downtown and near EMU. Check the ypd website.


Tue, Apr 26, 2011 : 10:54 a.m.

It is.The vast majority violent crime within the city limits occur in that side of town, the same holds true for West Willow in the Township


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 7:27 p.m.

Co-op gives everyone a vested interest in there surroundings!!


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 5:46 p.m.

I wish I could be more upbeat having lived near Ypsilanti for over 30 years before I moved, but everything they try there (excluding the MIRACLE of Depot Town) fails! Everything everyone else said is true. The idea of "slum clearance" has never worked anywhere. These developments are simply "poor people reservations" and they're treated as such.


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 3:41 p.m.

I have to agree with most of the posters (and good article by the way) that this will not work ... has it ever really worked in Ypsilanti? why would now be different? Until the entitlement expectations are removed and people have ownership of their property (literal and figureative ownership) this program will simply recyle itself ... i have lived all around the state and in metro detroit until I came to Ypsi and I have never seen a community to intent on making itself worse in every possible way ... point one - ypsi has to be the litter capitol of the county! If residents dont care enough to NOT litter, why would they care about maintaining a community? I have NEVER seen a city that litters like Ypsilanti - and its always in the low income areas!


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 7:20 p.m.

I am disappointed to see how many businesses have littered parking lots and surrounding grounds. I see these in both the city and the township. I pick up my yard after windy days that bring trash from who knows where. It only takes a few minutes. Are there codes in the city or township that require businesses to keep up a neat and clean exterior?


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 6 p.m.

I live in the township and can tell you that the majority of the garbage that gets strewn around in our neighborhood is a direct result of Waste Management's careless curbside garbage collection practices and their consistent failure to retain the collected garbage inside their trucks. Every week, we get a new load of litter on our lawn and all over the streets, compliments of WM. Worst. Garbage. Collection. Ever.


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 4:51 p.m.

I live near EMU's campus. Lots of student housing. Lots of litter in this area, too.

Mr. Ed

Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 3:11 p.m.

You can't put perfume on a pig.


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 8:14 p.m.

well you can but then it only smells like a pig in perfume, LOL


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 2:29 p.m.

It would be wise to make some of these units available to older people. Arrowwood Trails, Forest Hills and University Townhouses were built on this cooperative model and have been quite successful. Maintenance and grounds workers should be given rent free units as part of their pay. This gives them a personal investment in keeping things up. I also think it would be good if the manager lived on the grounds. Avalon Housing in A2 has also been quite successful and many people with mental illnesses and previously homeless people are housed in their units. Part of their success is that community businesses provide flowers and other plants to make the housing attractive. A community garden available to all residents would be a great help, especially if residents are receiving help in urban gardening. Let seniors in the community help with this. We know how to garden, can, etc. Well maintained playground areas and other common areas are vital. Areas where people know each other have less crime. Fast growing trees. Increase public transportation to the area, so people can get to their jobs easily and not be isolated into a relatively small space for most of the wkd. Have the residents organize themselves to do a neighborhood watch. Make places for people to sit in front of their units as well as in back. There are so many things that could be easily and inexpensively done to make this an attractive place to live. And, yes, if there apts available to seniors, I would be willing to move in.


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 2:09 p.m.

I think there are some wonderful aspects to this development. Love that it has the potential of making a very positive impact in that area of Ypsilanti. I am very worried about what the reality will be. That area of town is a train-wreck. Slow, on-going and devastating. It has been a mess that Ypsi hasn't cleaned up for at least 35 years. Any idea of how this development will be protected from the surrounding neighborhood?


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 2 p.m.

I have worked on projects like this and seen drug busts occur while I was there, trash strewn all over the ground, fenches kicked in by the young punks, and gangs hanging out and scaring the residents into submission. These types of development only serve to concentrate the problems by design. As soon as people begin to move in there the riff-raff will follow and the drugs will begin to be sold again. Then the units will get trashed and the taxpayers will have flushed another $16 million down the toilet. Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach him to fish and he will eat for the rest of his life. This statement still holds true. Good luck with another attempt at social engineering. In ten years this place will look the same as it does today. No ownership = don't take care of the property.


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 1:56 p.m.

First they say tear it down. Then they go after the owners and try to sue. Then they sell some units to those who want to rebuild it. Now they want to revamp an eye sore? What is our city thinking? Tear this eye sore down and build a park. I agree, this will become another eye sore and another pain in the neck for our under funded police department. Stupid move stupid idea.


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 1:49 p.m.

Concrete reservations do not work...


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 1:34 p.m.

Let's assume that these 144 units are all 1,000 sq. ft. each. Then $16 million worth of "makeovers" and "re-staining brick" will cost $111.11 per sq. ft. For that kind of money, why don't they just build 144 new units, in Ypsilanti's gem ... the Water Street Project? Didn't they claimed all along that multi-residential development would be the foundation of that neo-urbanist project? Filling it up with Section 8 wouldn't be neo - but it sure would be urbanist. Sorry, City of Ypsi, HUD, FHA, MSHDA and those other folks with (apparently) more dollars than sense - this is another bad idea and another collosal waste of taxpayer dollars.


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 3:55 p.m.

Yes this time build it away from the expressway. This would help with better air and cut down on the corrosion, plus the children and elderly have too much asthma and bronchitis already. Closed to school for children and the park ..great I dee, now covins city hall.


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 1:30 p.m.

I don't drink, smoke or do drugs and I am a Section 8 recipient. I have friends like me who are also. Please don't assume that all Section 8 folks are losers. Most of us are just down on our luck.


Tue, Apr 26, 2011 : 2:13 a.m.

The only reason that section 8 exists is that it is a revenue stream.


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 2:02 p.m.

No one is saying you are all losers, but you do end up stuck with a lot of them in the development and they will be the ones who run the complex and destroy things.


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 1:44 p.m.

I, also, know many low-income people who are righteous citizens. I've also known many people from Saline, Chelsea, Dexter, Bloomfield Hills, Gross Pointe, etc. who were heavy drug users. Being wealthy buys you good lawyers. It doesn't keep you from committing crimes.


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 1:06 p.m.

Public housing and affordable housing built in the 60's and 70's used the cheapest possible materials. A gust of wind could easily blow out a window screen or blow off a screen door. Cheap materials break down more quickly and the housing was often not maintained. Public transportation was not available and the "projects" were not near grocery stores or any other services. A2 did invest in some scattered housing sites. One tiny site held 4 4-bedroom units. Senior housing (highrises) was built separately from housing for families, isolating the generations and increasing the density of each site. It was very poor planning all around. It would be nice if we could learn from our past mistakes and make changes in housing patterns in general. Drugs and crime are hardly limited to areas where poor people live. Justice, however, is not blind and poor people are more likely to be prosecuted and sent to prisons.

Dog Guy

Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 1:02 p.m.

The oldest public housing project is still in great shape. The Fuggerei in Augsburg was built in 1516 by Jacob Fugger and still charges about $1 per year rent. Its only $16 million renovation was occasioned by the U. S. 8th Air Force in 1944. One difference from this Ypsi project is that Jacob and other Fuggers would live in the Fuggerei when they were in Augsburg. Has Teresa Gillotti or one of those Chesapeake Community Advisors booked an apartment in Hamilton Crossing? The patronizing official attitude is resented by "residents" (a term which is also widely used in prisons for people formerly called inmates or convicts). Resentment causes maintenance problems.


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 2:04 p.m.

They build these places so they don't have to live with people that are not in their socio-economic class


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 12:51 p.m.

Public idea whose time has gone!

Dog Guy

Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 12:19 p.m.

"If you build it, they will come."


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 12:18 p.m.

This is just sad. One way in and one way out of this place. The gateway residents don't want this and do not look forward to the crime and troubles that will come to exploit the poorest and their children. This money (all the different pots of it $$) would be better spent in Habit for Humanity hands and single homes renovated in the neighborhood. This failed model being thrust on this neighborhood is just adding insult to injury.


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 12:17 p.m.

more public money wasted. this place will look the same as it does now in 5 years. you let people who could care less move in and they will destroy it as they already did. tear it all down and creat a park.


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 12:12 p.m.

How frequently do those tenants with the section 8 vouchers undergo drug testing? One way to make sure this place doesn't get destroyed, as it surely will, is to prevent the problem tenants from being in there in the first place. It seems that in order for a person to get a job they need to qualify, I would hope those getting help also "need to qualify". Until there is a fundamental change on just how and who get "assistance" the cycle will continue.


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 2:06 p.m.

You want government assistance then you should have to drug test. Get the druggies out so that the others can live in peace.


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 1:12 p.m.

Studies done by NIDA, the Feds agency on drug abuse, have proven that "interdiction" (arrests and confiscation of drugs) are not effective in stopping the massive drug trade here in the USA. They've also proven that young people who participate in the DARE program are more likely to use marijuana than others. The most effective programs are the ones that help to emotionally support families of young children. Where does all the money go? Does the government really want to discourage drug use?


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 12:23 p.m.

"Until there is a fundamental change on just how and who get "assistance" the cycle will continue." If only the people handing out the money would follow this logic. But it's not in their best interest to get people off welfare.


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 12:10 p.m.

"They are interested in being sure that the units are rented to the right folks and the property is maintained." How "interested"? And, good luck with.


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 12:45 p.m.

Right, and how can they do that without discriminating?

Wolf's Bane

Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 12:06 p.m.

No one has learned from Cabrini Green in Chicago, huh? You can't group section 8 recipients into an area or development and assume things will get better! This will fail no matter how much you dress up this development. Statistics point to scattered site housing developments as being a better alternative to housing projects and have demonstrated to a) integrate the poor better into the community and b) lower the crime rate. Just saying... stop wasting money.


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 11:42 a.m.

Unfortunatley, the track record for many places is to renovate, then let the buildings fall apart. U-M follows the same pattern. Build/remodel buildings in a nice fashion, then underfund maintenace until the point of needing to remodel or tear down.

dading dont delete me bro

Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 10:57 a.m.

"...Crime and drugs were a serious issue until most people moved out." ya think? i welcome the remodeling, but if memory serves me correctly this complex was remodeled previously. after remodel, i give it 3 years to be in shambles again. sorry. and the slogan, "gateway to ypsilanti", really? it's on the 'out (of ypsi) bound' side of the one-way's to/fro ypsi.


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 11:32 a.m.

Yes dading you are correct on all counts.I remember when it was done and within days the fence was already being pulled apart


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 10:42 a.m.

This is such a shame and what a waste of money. I sorely feel that the people that will move back in there will (again) just tear it up as in the past. A negative view on my part, I suppose but it is a sad fact of life! Unless there is strong management and drug dealers are put out this will happen.


Mon, Apr 25, 2011 : 10:27 a.m.

Tom, very well writen and detailed article. I've come to expect this from the best writer at Keep up the good work! It sounds like they are trying to do this right this time. Whoever runs the complex needs to have a vested interest in seeing it succeed otherwise it will end up just like it was before.