Little Rock officials and staff with the housing revitalization group Gorman and Company hurled sledgehammers through drywall to launch a $26 million reconstruction project at the Sunset Terrace Apartments on Battery Street.
In partnership with the Metropolitan Housing Authority and the Central Arkansas Housing Corporation, the team dreamed up a plan to transform the 74 Sunset Terrace units, which were built in 1942 when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president, Gorman CEO Brian Swanton said.
Swanton said the private public partnership project is a “complete gut rehab that will look like new construction when we’re all done. We’re putting small additions on many of the units, new roofs, new walls. We’re ripping these buildings down to the studs. New plumbing, new flooring, new fixtures, new everything.”
The project has been in the planning stage for the last 11 years, and Swanton said he stepped in as the lead about four years ago. Many in attendance at the sledgehammering event Friday were apartment staff, and they cheered in excitement for the development. Swanton said that though the buildings will be remodeled, the historic integrity will remain, and green space will continue to surround the units.
“This is the launch of a new start to this entire neighborhood,” he said. Details about future rent prices and plans for affordable housing were not presented Friday.
Mayor Frank Scott Jr., Interim Police Chief Heath Helton, Housing Commissioner Leta Anthony and others made remarks.
“We have the opportunity to continue to transform our neighborhoods here in the city of Little Rock, particularly those — and I’ll be very frank — that have been historically forgotten and neglected,” Scott said.
Scott said the Sunset Terrace revitalization effort is an opportunity to provide quality affordable housing while also dismantling barriers. Knocking down the drywall also acted as a symbol for “more opportunities, ensuring that every resident has the opportunity to participate in the city of Little Rock’s growth. This is a shining example,” Scott said.
Anthony called on Swanton to recruit a diverse group of contractors for the project. All are local, and nearly half are minority led. Anthony called the project “a labor of love” to provide affordable, safe and healthy housing.
Helton recalled his early policing days when he worked downtown and around the Sunset Terrace apartments. “I think this is a great opportunity that obviously produced new life and new hope for the future of this community… . I can tell you the police department is very supportive of this project. We will do everything we can to support it along the way.”
William Towns, Gorman’s national market president, said the work was about more than the bricks and sticks, but how the community would be improved. “Housing is where our future sleeps — where our kids are,” Towns said. “This is really the beginning of a transformational process that will allow individuals to better see their future and reach their full potential.”
A push for affordable housing has been gaining ground at the city level. In the last few months, the Board of Directors approved the purchase of several lots in Little Rock’s Ward 6 for affordable housing developments.
Anthony said a similar renovation project will come soon to Madison Heights Apartments near 12th Street.