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Akron going forward with Mayflower loan application

4/25/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Stephanie Kist

Akron City Council voted April 22 to commence with a loan application that would fund renovation of Mayflower Manor, a downtown apartment complex housing more than 200 low-income and disabled or elderly residents.

Council’s 11-1 vote authorized the city’s application for $14.6 million in Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 108 loan funding to purchase the historic building, relocate the residents and begin the renovation. According to the loan application, the city expects to sell the building to a developer to complete the renovation and restore the property to a mixed-use development of office, retail and/or housing. The city’s plans are contingent upon receiving the loan.

Councilman Jeff Fusco (D-at large), chairman of the Planning Committee, stressed at the Council meeting the process of receiving notification of the loan and beginning the renovation could take up to two years.

The building, which was previously operated as a hotel and has historic ties to the birthing of Alcoholics Anonymous in Akron, was built in 1931 and has served as low-income housing since 1981.

The total cost of the project is estimated at nearly $38.5 million. Of that, $1.5 million is allocated for renovation, including the hiring of a renovation consultant to work with the 233 residents who would be displaced by the project if the grant is awarded.

Comprehensive Planning Manager Helen Tomic said part of the relocation assistance would involve pursuing tenant-based vouchers for the residents’ housing assistance. Most currently reside at Mayflower Manor under program-based vouchers, which stay with the property and don’t follow the resident if he or she moves, she explained.

“It’s clear that the administration and Council will keep an eye on the project in terms of the relocation and make sure it’s done right and the residents are taken care of,” Fusco said before Council’s vote.

Council President Garry Moneypenny (D-Ward 10) commended Council on taking the time to consider and ask questions about the issue before bringing it up for a vote. He added that Mayflower Manor residents were notified that day a vote would be taking place.

Several residents did attend the meeting and spoke during the public comment period, which took place at the conclusion of the meeting.

Marilyn Bobo, president of the tenant’s council at Mayflower Manor, said, as she had at previous Council meetings, she would oppose the relocation and renovation until she saw “facts” about the inspections that lead to the decision to close down the apartment building and renovate.

Mayflower resident Angella Fawn, who has attended several Council meetings and voiced her concern about the relocation, rhetorically asked, “Is this just because Akron doesn’t want low-rent people living downtown?”

According to city officials, options for new housing for the residents include Valor Home, Spring Hill Apartments and The Commons at Madaline Park.

“Some of the best residents in the city live in the Mayflower,” said resident Rebecca Elrod. “We deserve better than [to live in] the low-income places … that happen to be in high-crime areas.”

City Planning Director Marco Sommerville said at the Planning Committee meeting there is also the option that any resident who is interested could receive financial help to place a down payment on a house.

“We cannot close that building down until everybody has a place to stay,” Sommerville said.

Councilman Kenneth Jones (D-Ward 5), in whose ward Mayflower Manor is situated, voted against authorizing the loan application. Councilwoman Linda Omobien (D-at large) was absent from the meeting due to illness.

After the meeting, Jones said he felt there wasn’t enough clarity on the issue for the residents and he didn’t feel comfortable voting in favor of it.

“When it’s not clear for them, it’s not clear for me,” he said.

In other legislative action, Council approved the reappointment of Sidney Foster Jr. to the Civil Services Commission.

The next Akron City Council meeting will take place April 29 at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers on the third floor of the Akron Municipal Building, 166 S. High St. Committee meetings are set to begin at 2 p.m. that afternoon, also in Council Chambers.

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