The Newark Housing Authority is planning an ambitious project to build an 86-unit affordable housing complex on Main Street.

“We view this as an opportunity to expand the stock of affordable housing, in addition to offering high quality new housing to the existing residents of the George Read Village public housing,” said Sean Kelly, executive vice president of Leon N. Weiner & Associates, the developer that is partnering with NHA.

The project is slated for a 2.4-acre parcel that stretches from Main Street back to Independence Circle in George Read Village. The land is currently home to NHA’s office at 313 E. Main St. as well as 36 senior public housing units behind it.

The first phase of the plan calls for demolishing the office and replacing it with a five-story building containing 53 one-bedroom apartments for seniors, as well as office space for NHA staff, a community room, and retail space that will be rented to a nonprofit organization that serves NHA’s residents.

The second phase calls for replacing the George Read Village public housing with 33 apartments for low-income families. The Section 8 apartments will be configured in four buildings – three of which would be three stories tall and one of which would be two stories tall – and include two-bedroom, three-bedroom and four-bedroom units.

Kelly said current tenants will all be offered an apartment in the new buildings and will be provided off-site housing during the construction.

The first phase will cost $19 million. NHA plans to apply for funding through the Delaware State Housing Authority’s low-income housing tax credit program, but it will have to compete against public housing projects elsewhere in the state.

“It is by no means at this moment a sure thing, although we are investing enormous time and resources to make it as close to a sure thing as possible,” Kelly said.

NHA is also asking the City of Newark to consider contributing up to $2.5 million of its American Rescue Plan Act money toward the project. The city received $18 million through the federal pandemic relief bill and plans to use most of it for infrastructure and other capital projects, though officials have made no firm decisions yet.

City Manager Tom Coleman suggested that the city and NHA should also ask the state to allot some of its ARPA money toward the project, noting that the state recently announced plans to invest $26 million for affordable housing in Wilmington.

Kelly said NHA will know by July whether the Delaware State Housing Authority is funding the project. If approved, construction of Phase 1 will begin in Spring 2023 and take just over a year to complete.

“I don’t know if excited is the right word. I’m beyond excited,” NHA Executive Director Marene Jordan said.

The need for such a project is obvious, she said, noting that NHA currently has more than 900 families on its waiting list for affordable housing.

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