Long-awaited Newtown Pike extension housing project moves forward with groundbreaking

bmusgrave@herald-leader.comJune 9, 2014 

Daisy Roe can see the progress on the new rental units across the street from her temporary mobile home off of DeRoode Street.

Roe is hoping she'll finally get to move into one of the 14 units that soon will be part of the Davis Park View complex.

"There will be porches even on the apartments," Roe said Monday as construction crews framed out one of the rental units. "I'm only going to have to pay $300 a month with two dogs, which is unheard of. And they will help us for 10 years."

Roe, who hopes to be in her new home by the end of the year, is among the 11 households remaining in the Davis Bottom neighborhood. Residents have waited about five years for replacement housing for homes and rental property they lost during construction of the Newtown Pike extension.

Monday was the official groundbreaking for the first of a multiphase, public-private partnership to build affordable housing not just for residents displaced by the Newtown Pike extension but for other low- and moderate-income residents.

Davis Bottom residents will get first choice of the 14 rental units in six different buildings. Those rental units probably will be completed by the end of this year, said Holly Wiedemann, president of AU Associates, the builder of the rental units. Roughly half of those units are slated to go to Davis Bottom residents displaced by the Newtown Pike extension.

The rest will go to low and moderate income residents who qualify.

"There will be a first-come, first-served wait list," said Barbara Navin, executive director of the Lexington Community Land Trust, the nonprofit that oversees the affordable housing program. "Everyone has to income-qualify. Then there are priority lists for those who live in the area such as those that live in the neighborhoods close by, such as Irishtown and Spiegel Heights."

Construction could start as early as fall on 16 homes adjacent to the rental complex, Navin said.

"All 16 of those homes will hopefully be completed by the end of 2015," she said. As many as 10 of those homes could be available to people outside of Davis Bottom.

An additional 70 homes will be constructed in the second and third phases of the project, which will include apartments, town houses, homes and mixed-use developments that will include commercial space on the ground floor and residential space on upper levels.

A new park, currently the site of a dozen mobile homes, will be built to replace a beloved former baseball diamond that used to be in the neighborhood.

During Monday's groundbreaking ceremony, Gov. Steve Beshear praised the various partners in the multi phase transportation project and all of the steps it took to get to this point.

"Providing better transportation access in Lexington is important for this community and our entire commonwealth," Beshear said. "But at the same time, it's also important we carefully plan our transportation projects to minimize the adverse effects on local residents."

The $97 million Newtown Pike extension is being paid for primarily with federal transportation money, about 40 percent of which is being used to provide new homes to families affected and cover other mitigation efforts. About $72 million has been spent to date.

The Newtown Pike extension originally was approved in the late 1990s, but the project was slowed as the national economy tanked. Preparations for the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Lexington gave the project new life.

But rebuilding homes lost during various phases of construction has been delayed for years.

For example, in 2006, project leaders said they wanted to have 30 homes built by late 2008.

Land acquisition, moving utilities and funding have slowed the project's progress.

It's also taken a lot of partners.

Those partners include the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, the city, the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. AU Associates, which has built several affordable-housing projects in Lexington, was key to securing tax credits and other government funding for the rental units.

City and state transportation officials agreed to build streets, and storm and sanitary sewers in the neighborhood tucked between South Broadway and West High Street. The state has spent $10 million on the project — $6.95 million for right-of-way acquisition, and $3.6 million for infrastructure improvements and utility relocations. The Urban County government has invested $627,000 in HUD funding for construction of the rental units and other costs.

Mayor Jim Gray is the fifth mayor to be part of the Newtown Pike extension project.

"This project combines construction of new, affordable housing, neighborhood preservation and improved traffic flow," he said. "After years on the drawing board with little progress, working with the state, we're moving the project forward and we're doing it the right way."

Roe and two of her siblings have called the neighborhood home for nearly 50 years. Roe said she never thought of leaving.

But she's ready for something other than a mobile home.

"The trailers are temporary, and you can tell," she said. Still, Roe and other residents who stayed in the city-run mobile home park have not had to pay rent or utilities while they waited.

One Davis Bottom resident was able to pay for college for two of his children. Another was able to save enough money to put a down payment on one of the homes to be built in 2015, Navin said.

Approximately 30 households were in the Davis Bottom area when construction started more than five years ago. Now, there are 11. Some people opted to take relocation money to move to other neighborhoods. Other residents have died since construction began, Navin said.

"It's going to be nice once they get everything done," Roe said Monday. "We're even going to have a park across the road."

Beth Musgrave: (859) 231-3205. Twitter: @HLCityhall.

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service