Church Hill North construction to begin

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 10/25/2018, 6 a.m.
What’s special about Tuesday, Oct. 30? It’s the long-awaited launch date for construction of new housing on the site of ...

What’s special about Tuesday, Oct. 30?

It’s the long-awaited launch date for construction of new housing on the site of the former Armstrong High School in the East End.

At 10 a.m., a swarm of dignitaries, including Mayor Levar M. Stoney, will join members of the Creighton Court community in announcing the first phase of building — a 45-unit senior apartment and 60 units largely for public housing residents now living in Creighton Court, a stone’s throw away.

Projected cost of the 105 units: About $23 million, according to the city.

Orlando Artze, interim executive director of the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority, confirmed this week that the stalled project in the 1600 block of North 31st Street is finally getting underway — at least the first phases.

Additional phases are planned for a project that is to generate more than 250 new housing units, but no information has been disclosed on construction beyond the first 105 housing units.

It has been nearly two years since then-Gov. Terry McAuliffe joined officials in a ceremonial groundbreaking for the project that represents the starting point in replacing the Creighton Court public housing community.

Residents are to be moved into the completed units, and their old units are to be razed to make way for Creighton’s future redevelopment, which still appears to be years away.

Mr. Artze and others have said that it took time to take down the old school building and undertake the pre-construction work of preparing the ground and installing new utility lines so construction could begin.

Heavy rains made the site work take longer, and RRHA’s partner, The Community Builders of Boston, also needed extra time to arrange financing, which proved more difficult than anticipated, Mr. Artze said.

Questions about the project remain, including whether Creighton residents have secured any of the construction jobs and whether area black-owned businesses will receive any subcontracts on this job.

RRHA and The Community Builders have not issued any public statements indicating they have kept promises of diversity and inclusion in this development.

Mayor Stoney and the city government also remain silent on the inclusion issue, even though the city has reported that taxpayers have invested more than $9 million to pay for the demolition and site work, which is separate and apart from the $23 million price tag. City taxpayers also have contributed to the construction cost.

City Councilwoman Cynthia I. Newbille, who has said she is monitoring the situation, also has not issued statements about economic inclusion of black-owned companies.