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Over half of Tidewater Gardens residents re-located to make way for multi-million dollar redevelopment

Developers of the ongoing St. Paul's redevelopment project say construction is on schedule, despite a pause caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

NORFOLK, Va. — City leaders in Norfolk gave an update on the ongoing St. Paul's redevelopment project at a virtual roundtable Tuesday morning.

The city plans to replace the low-income housing units with mixed-income apartments.

Developers outlined the construction timetable and offered more details about what's happening to the residents who were forced to re-locate out of Tidewater Gardens to make way for the new units. 

Donna Mills of the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority (NRHA) said as of May 31, more than half of the people who live there have re-located.

"Approximately 56.47% of the units were vacant at that time," Mills said.

The NRHA is are tracking where residents are going. Most of them found another place to live thanks to section 8 housing choice vouchers, others found different rentals, some were evicted, some died, and a few became homeowners.

Mills added, not everyone in the St Paul's area has gotten a move-out notice, just yet.

"Because we are doing a phase approach with relocation and demolition, we are only issuing those to the phase we're currently working in,"  Mills said.

The city is in phase one of a multi-year, and multi-million dollar plan to tear down the low-income apartments and replace them with more modern units.

Dr. Susan Perry is overseeing the transformation and demolition is underway in Tidewater Gardens.

She said although there was a pause because of the pandemic, construction is still on schedule and demolition is underway.

"Sixteen buildings are scheduled for demolition between now and the fall. So it will be completed by October," Dr. Perry said. "Demolition of the first four buildings did start last week on Friday."

Developers plan to break ground on a 70-unit senior living facility in the next few months. John Majors of Brinshore Development said the building will go in an empty parking lot off Fenchurch Street.

"Because those are essentially vacant lots at the transit station, there's no demo that's required for those to get started," Majors said. "We could actually get some units up and going before all the relocation and demo was complete."

He said over the next few years, more and more groundbreakings will get underway to transform the community.

Phase one demolition is expected to be completed by October 2021, phase two by 2022, and phase three and four by 2023.

Each phase marks the start of new units.

"This is going to be a little bit of a different design architecture that we normally don't see in Norfolk and that was in response to some of the feedback we got," Majors said.

"This is going to be a neighborhood where everybody will have something."

The project hasn't been without controversy or lawsuits. Some have accused the city of gentrification and limiting housing options for families.

"Families were understandably and are understandably stressed when it comes to relocation and where they might move and what those options are," said Kristie Stutler who is tasked with the development's People First initiative.

She said her team is working with families to find new homes and connect them with job training and educational opportunities.

Just under 55% of residents say they want to return. 

"I think that is reflective of the work that we're doing with residents," Dr. Perry said.

Developers have stressed that families will have the option to move back into the newer apartments when they're completed.

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