AUBURN | One resident's dream to improve her neighborhood has spread contagiously to her neighbors and has grabbed the attention — and the financial resources — of local and state government and organizations.
Arlene Ryan, a resident of Auburn's Orchard Street, decided long ago that she would rather try to better her declining neighborhood than give up and move away.
"When something's wrong, you either move or fix it," Ryan said. "I didn't want to move, so I decided to fix it. I like my house."
On Wednesday, gold and blue shovels adorned with fluffy white ribbons were sticking out of a mound of dirt at 1 Orchard St., ready to be used in a groundbreaking ceremony that was the start of the $10.3 million S. E. Payne Cornerstone Apartments project that will turn 16 dilapidated houses into visually pleasing, affordable rental units.
"We are undertaking a project that has financing. It's obviously underway," said Ben Lockwood, director of development for Housing Visions. "It will result in 35 units of quality, affordable rental housing."
Housing Visions purchases and develops homes, either by demolishing them and rebuilding or rehabilitating old homes in neighborhoods that may be declining due to crime, deterioration of the buildings and other factors, according to the not-for-profit's brochure.
New and revitalized housing for the S. E. Payne Cornerstone Apartments will be along Orchard, Clark, Washington and James streets, according to a diagram of the project plan.
Residents of the apartments will have access to community space, a laundry facility, a computer lab, a community kitchen, off-street parking and green space, according to a press release. Rent, not including utilities, will range from $473 to $870 per month and will likely be utilized by households at or below 60 percent of the average income in the area. Persons with disabilities are another targeted group of residents for the apartments, according to Housing Visions.
Funding came from several sources, including Key Community Development Corporation (KeyBank), the New York State Housing Trust Fund, the City of Auburn, the Allyn Foundation and the New York State Regional Economic Development Council.
Lockwood said the physical appearance of rental properties is important, but so is having residents who are proud of where they live and are respectful of their environment.
"Even though this is rental housing, let's strive to have the best residents," he said.
Daniel Buyer, assistant commissioner for regional affairs with NYS Homes & Community Renewal, said the push by residents to have a better, safer neighborhood was what led to the project.
"The best neighborhoods lead change from within," he said. "The neighbors have spoken. They've articulated a clear vision for what they want for the future."