Housing Authority To Reinvigorate Park Place

By  | December 2, 2011 | Filed under: News
SHEFFIELD – The Sheffield Housing Authority will only make Park Place better, said Executive Director Shirley Whitten. In an interview Thursday with The Quad-Cities Daily, Ms. Whitten promised that the upscale apartment complex in Sheffield’s Downtown is set for a major face lift. The Housing Authority closed the deal to buy Park Place November 28th from the estate of Bob Love, which owned the two square-block property. The purchase money came from a conventional bank mortgage from Progress Bank in Florence. Housing Board chairman Pam Fleming said that Progress Bank is from Huntsville and only recently opened the Florence branch. She said that the loan request was put out to a number of banks in The Shoals, and Progress had the best deal. The loan amount was $1.8 million. Ms. Whitten indicated that the Housing Authority plans to spend another half-million dollars on renovations to the facility.According to Ms. Fleming and Whitten, the future looks promising for Park Place. The outside of the main building will undergo a refurbishing. Offices and some large unused open spaces which are situated on the outside walls will be gutted and turned into retail space, a new hair salon for men and women, and a retail upscale restaurant. If this sounds strange, that a public housing authority would go into a project like this, Ms. Fleming said that its the way of the future. “Our Housing Authority is going to become more entrepreneurial, more self-sustaining as funds from the Federal Government shrink”, she indicated, “With ventures like this one, we can become less dependent on government money”.The question as to whether Park Place would ever be morphed into a subsidized housing project got an emphatic ‘no’ for an answer. Ms. Whitten said that under no circumstances will that ever happen. Because of the very nature of the private-money purchase, Park Place does not fall into any category where that would be allowed. This reporter asked, “If Park Place were to be a total economic failure; if there were no way to continue operating it as a residential apartment facility. If the only alternative you had was to demolish the buildings and haul them off? You would do that before you converted to subsidize housing?” Ms. Whitten laughed at the absurd questioning and then looked this reporter square in the eye and said, “Yes.” She also said that the very notion of Park Place not carrying it’s own weight is unrealistic, “With the increased census that we will have as a result of our marketing and  rebuilding efforts, not to mention the additional income from first-floor leases, we will be on solid ground financially.”The eight full time employees at Park Place are now on the Sheffield Housing Authority’s payroll, with all benefits afforded existing Authority workers. Ms. Whitten said there are no plans to change their employment status at all.Prior to the sale, Sheffield Mayor Ian Sanford sent a letter to all residents of Park Place. A portion of that letter reads, “… one thing that I wish to make absolutely clear is that Park Place will NEVER be used as subsidized housing of any sort. the Sheffield Housing Authority intends to operate and manage Park Place in the same manner in which it is currently being done. They wish to make some improvements such a adding additional retail services, offering optional later dining times, and anything else to give the residents a feel of an “upscale residential hotel”.
Ms. Whitten indicated that once the face lift is finished, the residency rate will return to a normal level.
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