MCHA demolishing old housing units

MCHA demolishing old housing units

New apartments to

be built in Gillespie

Macoupin County Housing Authority is in the process of demolishing 82 of its apartments in Gillespie, Bunker Hill and Virden.

According to Peg Barkley, CEO of MCHA, demolition in Gillespie began about four weeks ago, but the process actually began about two years ago and has been part of MCHA’s five-year plan for several years.

MCHA applied and was approved for a grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to demolish the apartments, at a total cost of approximately $900,000. HUD gave them a timeframe in which they had to relocate the residents and abate and demolish the properties. “We got the residents moved out ahead of schedule, so we were able to start the abatement process, and then demo is following up right behind it,” Barkley said, noting MCHA got ahead of schedule by building a set of two-, three- and four-bedroom homes in 2015 using tax credits. “Gillespie was our first to be torn down because we plan to rebuild back.” The new construction is expected to cost around $5 million — by comparison, construction of the original 20 apartments cost about $173,000 in the early/mid-1950s — and be funded through a combination of grants, loans and tax credits, though the proportion of each has not yet been determined. “We should have closing on that in April, and then we would start building shortly after that,” she said. It is expected construction will be complete about a year later.

In Gillespie, the apartments — which were built in 1954 on Fillmore and Handy streets and in 1963 on Gillespie Street — will be replaced with two 10-unit row houses of one- and two-bedroom apartments for the elderly. Each unit will have a one-car garage. “They’ll be more to the modern standards,” she said. “We could no longer accommodate HUD regulations and make them ADA accessible. They were not well insulated. They had lived out their lifetime. HUD gives us a time period of how long their useful life is, and we’d outgrown that.”

Barkley noted that when the units were originally built, the majority of the residents were miners. “They actually had coal shacks at the ends of the driveways because the miners got free coal at that time, so they could heat their apartments with the coal,” Barkley said.

Though an existing row house located on Oak Street behind Gillespie Civic Center will also be demolished, there are no plans to replace it at this time, as the property is too small.

MCHA has filed an application with the Illinois Housing Development Authority to build both apartments and homes on the Virden site, and they are waiting for approval. “We should find out in the spring,” Barkley said.

She also said there are already people expressing interest in applying for the new apartments. Senior citizens who want to apply can call MCHA at (217) 854-8606. Though there will also be income restrictions for eligibility, those have not yet been finalized.

Crews began demolishing the Gillespie housing units about four weeks ago; once work is complete in Gillespie, they will move on to Virden and Bunker Hill.