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Mayflower Manor residents oppose proposed relocation

4/4/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Stephanie Kist

City’s loan application on table; no action expected soon

DOWNTOWN AKRON — Public hearings before Akron City Council April 1 drew residents of Mayflower Manor, who voiced their opposition to the city’s plan to purchase the downtown apartment building, relocate them and renovate the historic building.

City Council requested time on the ordinance authorizing the city’s application for $14 million in federal loan funding to put the plan into action. The funding, if awarded, would cover relocation costs and part of the renovation. It is expected that the entire process could take up to two years to complete.

Marilyn Bobo said she spoke for the 250 residents of Mayflower Manor as she voiced opposition to the plan and said she needed to be shown facts regarding the inspection of the building.

“We don’t feel like there’s anything wrong with the building,” she said.

“I don’t think this plan is very well thought-out,” added Mayflower resident Angela Fawn.

West Akron resident Richard Rexroad questioned the logic in uprooting residents, forgoing tax income and taking on more debt.

“Nothing about this makes sense to me,” he said.

In addressing residents’ concerns, Planning Director Marco Sommerville said city officials have not determined what the end use of the building would be. He explained the owner of the building is at the end of a contract with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and it is at this point that investment needs to be made in the building, rather than waiting until it becomes unlivable.

Mayflower Manor houses low-income residents who are elderly and/or disabled, according to city officials.

“There is no question that the building needs to be completely redeveloped for it to continue to be useful,” Mayor Don Plusquellic said in a press release in February. “And, for any renovations to occur, the residents, for their own health and safety, should be relocated.”

The city’s intent is to purchase the building and help a private developer rehabilitate it. However, these plans are contingent upon approval of the HUD 108 Loan request and finalization of an agreement with the present owner. City officials have secured housing for all of the residents of Mayflower Manor, according to the press release.

Sommerville, speaking at the meeting, vowed that, if the deal goes forward, every resident of the Mayflower would have a place to live that is even better than where they live now and near a bus route, which was a prominent concern among some of the residents.

“No one will be left out in the cold,” he said.

The handful of residents who spoke, though, resisted the idea of being relocated.

“It’s our home. We’re safe there,” said Carrie Washington. “It’s our family. … Everything will be all right. We’ll take care of each other.”

“These people all have souls,” Bobo said before Council. “Think about it before you jump up and make your decision.”

Planning Committee Chairman Jeff Fusco (D-at large) stressed it would take six months before the city would even know if it would be receiving the funding.

“The biggest message to you and your neighbors is don’t move, don’t go anywhere,” he said. “This is a long process.”

He and other Council members insisted they would see the residents taken care of if the plan were to move forward.

“I just want all the residents to know that we have heard you loudly and clearly that you oppose this,” said Councilwoman Linda Omobien (D-at large) during the committee meeting. “No one will be homeless.”

“We want to get answers for everyone,” Fusco said.

In other business, Council approved an ordinance asking for a closer look at the need for student housing in the city. The ordinance, sponsored by Fusco and Council President Garry Moneypenny (D-Ward 10), asks the Planning Department to conduct a thorough study of the development of off-campus housing and authorizes a 120-day moratorium on the approval of any incentive for the development of construction of student housing.

While saying that development is important to Downtown Akron, Fusco noted Council has approved 1,975 new units of student housing in recent years. He and Moneypenny said it would be prudent to move cautiously and take a closer look at future student housing.

The next Council meeting will take place April 8 at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers on the third floor of the Akron Municipal Building, 166 S. High St. in Downtown Akron. Committee meetings are set to begin at 2 p.m. that afternoon, also in Council Chambers.

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