Many of the apartments in Bate-Wood Homes ruined by the May 2010 flood are now unrecognizable — in a good way.
Crews are putting finishing touches on the last of 16 units taken off line after the flood, and families are moving into the new and improved spaces as fast as the paint dries.
Rachel White, executive director of the Housing Authority of Danville, which oversees Bate-Wood and other developments in the city, said units ranging in size from one to four bedrooms are part of re-imagining the look, feel and utility of subsidized housing.
Work already was being done on some older units prior to the flood, but the ones being unveiled this week have several special touches.
The apartments have a more open, modern look and include features such as hardwood floors, found when the vinyl floors were taken up after the floods.
Hardwood shelving and storage were included in every available nook and cranny, which reduces the need for additional furniture, especially on the second floor.
Some four-bedroom apartments were turned into three-bedroom apartments with the additional space being used in part to open up the floor plans.
In one of the new three-bedroom units, the kitchen, now with an island, is connected to the living room area.
There are several features to increase energy efficiency, such as windows, additional insulation and tankless water heaters that only run when water is being used.
Joe Culberton, a housing authority property manager, said smaller touches such as stylish countertop finishes, have been a hit with people who have viewed them so far.
Culbertson oversees about 136 units, including many of the ones being rebuilt. He was given the task of getting people into the apartments as quickly as possible and already had moved three tenants in by Wednesday with expectations most of the units will be occupied by next week.
“It’s our mandate from HUD (Housing and Urban Development) to have them occupied as quickly as possible,” Culbertson said. “It’s our goal as the workers are moving out to have people moving in because people are in need of housing.”
Culbertson said the waiting list for housing in the area is currently about eight families, a number that has been cut significantly by the new renovations coming on line. All of the families who lived in the apartments at the time they flooded moved on to other units, where many still live, White said.
Part of the idea behind the renovation was to make the apartments marketable to a wider variety of tenants. White said she envisions more of a mixture of working families, alongside people on fixed incomes, such as elderly and disabled residents.
"Our whole thought process has changed in that it's our goal to provide houses for mixed income (tenants), so you aren't taking low-income families and just hiding them away," White said.
Walk-in showers were installed in most cases instead of bath tubs because the showers are both more popular with tenants and accessible for people with disabilities, White said. The apartments all have ramps leading up to them as well.
Larger, covered porch areas on the front of the apartments and patios on the back are meant to allow people to have room outside their homes to create more of a neighborhood atmosphere.
After the flood, the housing authority was in disagreement with the insurance carrier about whether the affected properties were in the floodplain.
White said the units that were flooded had never been threatened by water, but the amount of debris deposited in nearby Clark’s Run during the 2010 ice storm had clogged the waterway and made it more prone to flood.
It was an argument the housing authority eventually won when it was found that the only portion of Bate-Wood Homes that actually was in the 1970s floodplain hadn't been touched by water.
In the meantime, mold had set in and most of the apartments with any water damage had to be completely gutted.
Work on the project, designed by Frankfort architect Craig Aossey and done by Springfield Contracting, began about nine months ago. The scope of the project — at an average of $56,000 per unit — required tearing out virtually everything and uncovered spaces that now are being used for storage.
White said the new approach to building subsidized housing will continue to be used in projects in the future.
Thirty-two of the original 36 units built in 1951 have now been completely rennovated, White said.
Eligibility for public housing is determined by income limits ($29,350 for a single person in Boyle County) as well as credit and rental histories and background checks.
White said the maximum amount of rent charged on a one-bedroom unit would be about $400 a month, while a three-bedroom, two-bathroom unit would be about $500. All utilities are covered.