Construction begins on Galveston's last public housing replacement project

EJP successfully represented the Galveston Housing Authority as it worked to close and construct its third Hurricane Ike mixed-income replacement housing development using tax exempt bonds, 4% LIHTC and TX General Land Office CDBG-DR funds.


Crews this week began tearing down the leasing office at the former Oleander Homes complex to make way for a $112 million mixed-income development that will finally satisfy Galveston’s mandate to replace public housing units lost to Hurricane Ike.


Construction of the Oleanders at Broadway marks the beginning of the end of a 13-year endeavor to replace 569 public housing units demolished after being flooded during the 2008 hurricane, a process that sparked local controversy.


The demolition came after crews already spent several days prepping the 11.5-acre site, 5200 Broadway, for initial work. Once the site is prepared in three to four weeks, crews will begin construction of the two-year build, said Mona Purgason, executive director of the Galveston Housing Authority.


“We are very excited to be able to finally break ground,” Purgason said. “It’s going to provide that critically needed housing in a low-income neighborhood with amenities that will enhance the lives of the people that live there.”


After Hurricane Ike, the housing authority had to tear down many public housing units because of storm damage. The authority still must replace 287 of the 569 lost to the storm. Replacing them is a federal mandate from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.


The Broadway development will be a mixed-income 348-unit project with 174 public housing units and 87 low-income housing tax credit units.


The public housing units are available only to people who make very low incomes. The tax credit units allow people making a slightly higher income to qualify. The 87 tax credit units will count toward the units Galveston lost.


The Oleanders will look much like the other mixed-income developments in Galveston: Villas on The Strand, 1524 Strand St., and Cedars at Carver Park, 2915 Ball St.


Developer McCormack Baron Salazar, which manages the other two units, also is building and will manage Oleanders.


The company plans to build amenities such as playgrounds, a pool, a gym, green space and community rooms on the development, said Lou Bernardy, senior vice president and director of development.


“We really want the buildings to be beautiful and stand out and be inviting,” Bernardy said.


With the new 348 units in the area, Bernardy hopes the complex will spur more commercial activity in the area.


“We’re very mindful of the role housing plays in creating more economic development,” Bernardy said.


Crews also plan to design the site to manage flow of floodwater to keep it out of the streets and drain effectively, he said.


The units will look the same and have the same quality regardless of whether they rent at market rates or are public housing units, Bernardy said.


“The finishes, they’re all the same, regardless of the income a family has,” Bernardy said.


The housing authority has one additional project going on to finish replacing the 569 units, Purgason said.


This housing authority board this week awarded Schumer-Yarbrough Development the contract to renovate or construct 26 houses that will become scattered-site units, Purgason said.


The 26 units will mostly consist of renovated properties, all of which are south of Broadway, she said. “It’s going to be primarily rehabilitation on existing units,” Purgason said. “The units are quite new.”


The housing authority hopes to complete and start leasing those 26 units in the first few months of next year, she said.


Getting to this point is a big deal for the housing authority, which for more than a decade has been managing large-scale construction projects on top of its normal duties of setting up potential tenants with housing.


“It has been an incredible undertaking,” Purgason said. “We’ve been fortunate that we’ve had some really wonderful people on our boards that had vision and stuck through it. We’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. There is really a great deal of excitement.”


Because construction will be completed in phases, Purgason hopes to start leasing units in the summer of 2023, before final completion in September 2023, she said.


Keri Heath: 409-683-5241; keri.heath@galvnews.com or on Twitter @HeathKeri.


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