Friday, October 07, 2005

'Bold Plan' for Revitalization

Article Last Updated: Wednesday, Sep 07, 2005 - 12:01:28 am PDT

'Bold Plan' for Revitalization
By Jeff Mitchell

These four-plexes on Cunningham Drive in Fairfield are among the 19 properties that the city will purchase and demolish to make way for affordable housing. (Christine Baker/Daily Republic)

FAIRFIELD - Once completed, it will be the largest redevelopment project found within the city's central core.

In a largely run-down area stretching across parts of Pennsylvania and Alaska avenues, Cunningham Drive and Eton Court, the Fairfield Redevelopment Agency is moving forward with plans to buy 19 four-plex apartment houses, tear them down and usher in the development of a single new affordable housing complex.

On Tuesday, the City Council, sitting as the agency's board of directors, unanimously gave the green light to purchasing two four-plex properties at 2319 Cunningham Drive and 1218 Alaska Ave. for $575,000 each, bringing to 11 the number of properties the agency has committed to buy on behalf of the PACE (Pennsylvania, Alaska, Cunningham and Eton) Redevelopment project.

"This is a pretty bold plan, congratulations," Councilman Jack Batson told Lark Ferrell, the city's redevelopment manager.

The panel also unanimously approved a $132,559 contract with Fairfield-based LLW Properties, Inc. for property management services at the sites during an interim period while the city completes the process of purchasing the properties.

Depending on their condition, the sites are selling for $500,000 to $575,000 each, Ferrell said.

The agency also approved a contract for up to $235,000 with Oakland-based Overland Pacific & Cutter to help relocate the tenants from the 76 units found within the project area.

Each of the existing residents will be offered bi-lingual relocation assistance, moving expense money and additional funds to help pay the difference between their current rent and the rent they will pay in their new apartments, Ferrell said.

The goal of the ambitious project, which may cost the agency upwards of $9.5 million for property acquisition alone, is to have a single private developer come in and build a smartly-designed affordable housing complex that could feature a mixture of different types of housing such as condominiums and single-family homes in addition to apartments, Ferrell said.

"The main idea is to have a complex that has a single owner and - and this is a critical point from the city's perspective - a full-time, on-site manager," Ferrell said.

In recent years the city has struggled with crime and other issues stemming from older apartment complexes that have absentee landlords and no on-site management representatives.

Ferrell said the city is currently negotiating the purchase of the four-plexes and so far has not had to employ the use of eminent domain, the controversial legal process by which government acquires private property in the name of the public good whether or not its owner or owners consent to the sale.

The city hopes to complete the purchase of all 19 properties, relocate all tenants and begin the demolition process within the next 12 to 18 months, she said.

Reach Jeff Mitchell at 427-6977 or

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