Fairfax Gardens is a public housing development located off DeWert Avenue in Taunton.
By Marc Larocque
A federal housing department administrator and a member of Congress are scheduled to come to Taunton on Friday for a closer look at what they are working with.
U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Newton, and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regional administrator Barbara Fields will tour the Fairfax Gardens public housing development on DeWert Avenue on Friday afternoon. The two are scheduled to visit Fairfax at 2:30 p.m. in preparation of a $22 million HOPE VI grant project to rebuild the site.
Taunton Housing Authority Executive Director Colleen Doherty will be on hand to show the property to Fields and Frank.
"They want to come out and get familiar with the surrounding area," Doherty said.
"This is in preparation to use the grant. We are going to talk to some residents and show (Frank and Fields) some units. It's a tour to become familiar with the site ... The project plan will develop especially as we start looking at the site itself and the wetlands and those types of things."
Doherty thanked Frank for his help to secure the HOPE VI grant.
"Barney Frank has always been very involved in this program," Doherty said. "He has a special interest in the community and this site, and wants to stay with us step by step throughout the program."
HUD announced in May that the Taunton Housing Authority would receive the grant.
Taunton plans to use the HOPE VI grant for a $71 million project, utilizing the grant in combination with leveraging $41 million in low income housing tax credits along with investments from the private sector. The redevelopment project consists of demolishing the 150 barracks-style units that make up the Fairfax Gardens development, constructing 88 townhouse-style units in their place and also creating 72 mixed-income rental units at a separate location in downtown Taunton.
The Taunton Housing Authority has set the goal of demolishing the 15-acre Fairfax Gardens site in the fall of 2012. The housing authority says it will work with existing residents on relocation and self-sufficiency using the HOPE VI funds for a program called Community and Supportive Services, and by helping them receive what's called a Section 8 voucher to pay rent.
Doherty said there is no estimated date of completion for the Fairfax Gardens reconstruction.
She said the separate site, located behind the Bloom bus station on a polluted 6.4-acre piece of land known as Parcel 6A, will be completed first. The Parcel 6A site, located off of Mason Street, will feature a 54-unit midrise elevator building with community space on the ground floor, along with 18 townhouse units.
Once the Parcel 6A development is completed in the spring or summer of 2013, Doherty said, it will allow a portion of housing authority residents to move back in at that point.
While Fairfax has problems with structural distress, it has also been plagued by drug and criminal problems for years. Last summer, an anti-drug operation was conducted by police to target heroin dealing based at the housing development.
The housing development was built in 1951. Fairfax Gardens is centered on DeWert Avenue, which was named after the Medal of Honor recipient Richard DeWert, a Taunton native who died in 1951 in a heroic effort to save others in the Korean War.