The LaFayette Housing Authority hopes to open bidding this week for a $5 million contract to tear down 30 units of decrepit public housing on Foster Circle and replace it with environmentally friendly rental duplexes.
It's been a long time coming for the housing authority's Executive Director Ruth Bass.
"I am so excited. We have been working on this for years," Bass said. "It's been a process."
LaFayette Mayor Neal Florence said, "It's a pretty big project. It's going to be a much-improved [look] for that area."
The housing authority first applied in 2002 to build new units, but in 2004 the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development rejected the idea. LaFayette officials revived the application in 2008 -- and hit some bumps along the way.
The housing authority isn't asking for extra money for the project; it has saved $5 million by stashing away a portion of funding it gets annually from HUD for capital improvements and maintenance.
"I don't want any extra money," Bass said, explaining she needed only HUD's OK to proceed.
HUD approved the project, but then indicated last year that it wanted $2.8 million back. The federal agency was hurting for funding and trying to recapture money from housing authorities around the country, she said.
"I already had approval to do this," said Bass, explaining that allowed LaFayette to hang onto its $5 million.
Then, early this year, the LaFayette Housing Authority learned it would have to pay extra to dispose of asbestos in the floor tiles and mastic, or tile adhesive, and in the ceilings of the 30 two- and three-bedroom units it plans to demolish.
"I was just in tears," Bass said, when she first heard estimates that asbestos disposal could cost $500,000 to $1 million.
Upon further review, the estimated expense dropped to $200,000.
The housing authority's bid will seek one contractor to demolish the units, dispose of the debris and build the duplexes.
Seven of the duplexes will be built on Foster Circle and eight will be built on the housing authority's 2.5-acre parcel on the corner of Culberson and South Steele that formerly was the site of Hill High School, Bass said.
The Atlanta office of Lord Aeck & Sargent Architecture has designed environmentally friendly duplexes that will have Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design silver certification.
The green features will include formaldehyde-free cabinets and bamboo flooring, "tube lighting" or tube-shaped skylights that let in daylight, and tankless water heaters.
The duplexes also will have Hardie board fiber-cement siding, which will make them less conspicuous as public housing.
"These are going to look like private rental properties," Bass said.
The bid specifies that the contractor needs to have the project finished in a year, but Bass said all the work could be done in nine months.
The LaFayette Housing Authority has about 300 units of housing, and there's a waiting list to get in.
Tim Omarzu covers education for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California.