Fayette County

Davistown gets modular housing

Before there is a Newtown Pike extension, there will be a Whitmer Way.

Members of 16 — maybe more — lower Davistown households will be living along the new, temporary street in new, temporary modular homes beginning in September, if all goes according to plan.

A half-dozen or so identical modular homes were placed in the neighborhood's Southend Park, through which Whitmer Way will run, on Tuesday. Plans are for 10 more to be put in the park by the end of the week — Monday at the latest.

The residents will live rent- and utility-free in the modular housing for at least two years while their old homes are torn down and new, permanent housing is built for them as part of the Newtown Pike extension project.

Nearly half of the money for the Newtown Pike extension project, most recently estimated to cost $87 million, will be used to purchase land in lower Davistown, rebuild the area's infrastructure, and pay for a portion of the new, permanent housing that will be built.

There is still some work to be done, such as the installation of porches and utility connections, said Andrew Grunwald, extension project engineer/manager for the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government.

Each of the approximately 1,000-square-foot modular homes, which have three bedrooms and two bathrooms, cost $30,215. An additional $10,500 will be spent on each of them for items including decks at front and back entrances, installation of air conditioning equipment, and connecting them to utilities.

“A lot of that money is in the electric lines themselves,” Grunwald said.

Each modular home also will have a storage building costing about $1,400 and fencing expected to cost $750, he said.

When the homes are no longer needed, they will become government surplus property and be auctioned.

Grunwald said the proceeds might be put into the community land trust, which will manage the redeveloped neighborhood.

An honorable name

Whitmer Way, named for the late Rev. Deborah Whitmer, could accommodate more temporary housing if necessary, Grunwald said.

“If we need to, we'll construct more,” he said. “We'd have to extend the street on down.”

Discussing the street name, Grunwald said Deborah Whitmer was “a very big help” when the Newtown Pike extension project started. She was a former head of the Nathaniel Mission, which works to meet the spiritual, medical and other needs of the people in the area.

“Whenever you have a street in Lexington, you've got to give it a name,” he said. “We didn't think she would mind.”

Lower Davistown is one of Lexington's most economically depressed areas, but it has a tight-knit core group of long-time residents and a rich history. Davistown was home to freed slaves who moved there just after the Civil War.

The neighborhood is being redeveloped to comply with a 1994 executive order issued by President Bill Clinton. That order requires federal agencies to address the effects their projects — in this case the Newtown Pike extension — have on minority and low-income populations.

“I've been, I don't know how many years, in this old bottom,” said resident Larry Cooper.

He said the temporary homes are nice.

“I'm going to get new furniture,” he said, adding that a relative told him he wasn't taking a lot of his old “damn stuff” to his new, temporary quarters.

Cooper said he was concerned about vandals and thieves and would be keeping an eye on the new housing until residents move in.

Grunwald said extra police patrols have been requested for the area.

When completed, the 1.5-mile Newtown Pike extension will extend from West Main Street at Newtown Pike to South Limestone at Scott Street, near the University of Kentucky.

Eventually, up to 26 permanent low-income housing units, mostly single-family homes, are to be constructed in lower Davistown as part of the project. The housing is for residents who want to continue living there and others who will be displaced.

Current homeowners affected by the new roadway will have the opportunity to own new homes in the redeveloped neighborhood at no extra cost to them. Current renters who want to stay as renters will have their rent frozen at the current rate for 10 years under project plans.

“We have some people who are undecided about whether they will go or stay,” said Dorothy Coleman, the Newtown Pike extension project community liaison. “We will have room for all of those families who choose to stay.”