A few years ago, Deardra Carter put her name down on the Newark Housing Authority waiting list, hoping to move out of a home she shared with her daughter and grandchildren and get a place of her own.
NHA was in the process of partnering with developer Ingerman to tear down Cleveland Heights, a 6.77-acre neighborhood off Cleveland Avenue built in 1967 that had become run down and plagued with crime by the mid-2000s.
The housing authority, which provides rental assistance to low-income families, the elderly and people with disabilities, was planning 13 three-story, townhouse-style apartment buildings with 56 units, a playground, gym and community center for low-income residents called Alder Creek.
In 2013, NHA and Ingerman, which agreed to lease the property from the housing authority and manage the complex, got approval for $11.5 million in tax credits to fund the renovation project and in 2014, crews broke ground.
Alder Creek was completed this past summer and, just as the project was slow to come to fruition, time ticked by for Carter as well.
She had turned in her application, but days turned into months, months turned into years and soon, she forgot all about Alder Creek. That was, until August when she received a letter in the mail from NHA stating she had been approved and could finally move in.
“I couldn’t believe it. I thought it was a scam. I was like, ‘There is no way this is real,’ but it was,” Carter said last week. “It’s been a blessing. I thank God every morning.”
It’s been 10 years since Carter has lived on her own, so she was more than excited to move into her one-bedroom apartment in October.
“There’s nothing like your own place,” she said. “It just gives me chills.”
In an interview last week, Carter said she was planning to have her son, daughter and grandchildren over for Thanksgiving dinner – her first holiday in Alder Creek. Although there will be lots of people and lots of food, she said she will make sure her home stays just as clean and brand new as the day she moved in.
“I’m gonna be looking around on the floor. Nobody better leave any crumbs around,” she joked.
Carter said she is looking forward to spending time with family and making new holiday memories in her new home this Thanksgiving.
“It’s going to be special. It’s my first one, and if nobody comes, I’ll eat the turkey by myself,” she said, laughing.
Marene Jordan, NHA executive director, said the project is nearly completed and 23 of the 56 units in Alder Creek have been leased so far, with many of the tenants moving in just in time to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas and other holiday traditions.
She said the new development is a huge improvement to Cleveland Heights and a fresh start for the site. It was a long time coming, but Jordan is relieved Alder Creek is finally here.
“It couldn’t have come at a better time – just around the holidays,” she said.
For Rhonetta Wilmore, her new home in Alder Creek is a Thanksgiving blessing and Christmas miracle all wrapped in one.
The mother of two moved from Wilmington to Newark in September with her 7-year-old son Jyair and 12-year-old daughter Keaira to get away from “all the crime” in the city. Now, she said she feels safe.
“I love it here,” she said. “It’s so peaceful.”
Wilmore was looking at other apartments in Newark before she found Alder Creek, but due to sky-high rent fueled by university students, the only places she could afford were “old and outdated.” She said she jumped at the opportunity to live in a new development.
“I just can’t thank the Newark Housing Authority enough,” Wilmore said. “I walked in and everything was brand new. I was like, ‘Oh, thank God.’”
She plans to spend Thanksgiving with family in Wilmington, but said Christmas this year will be in Alder Creek and she’s looking forward to putting up a tree, decorating outside and watching her children open presents from Santa in their new home.
Wilmore said she has a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, and it’s all because of Alder Creek.
“I’m thankful for a new home, a new environment and a new beginning,” she said. “Not everybody is blessed with that.”