PAWCATUCK — At its board meeting Thursday, the Stonington Housing Authority assured residents of the Edythe K. Richmond Homes that their housing needs would be supported should expansion plans for the development move forward.
At last month’s board meeting, about 20 of the complex’s 64 residents learned of potential plans to demolish two buildings at the north end of the complex near MayFlower Avenue. In their place, one larger, taller 45-unit building would be constructed with amenities such as an elevator, laundry services and mailboxes.
The two buildings slated for demolition have been remediated twice in the last two years for problems with mold. A third unidentified building would also be torn down.
A new two-story building could be constructed in the southern portion of the complex near Winthrop Street. A previous plan to build near the corner of Trumbull Street and Sisk Drive was abandoned because the site has been identified as an intermittent watercourse.
The complex houses elderly and disabled Stonington residents in 17 buildings containing one- and two-bedroom units dispersed throughout the 9-acre property on Sisk Drive. Residents pay 30 percent of their income as rent. The new project would not generate any rent increases.
Originally constructed as a 50-unit complex in 1980, the development added 10 more units in 1992. For the past five years, the board has discussed further expansion and recently took action by hiring an architect, a geo-technical engineer, a traffic engineer and a landscape architect to assess the site.
Debora Lee, a resident of the complex, asked the board where residents who live in the buildings selected for demolition would live during construction.
“We’re working on coming up with a plan for that,” said Phylicia Adams, executive director of the complex. “We’re doing studies of what we can do, what’s feasible, and part of that is deciding where buildings can be placed on the site.”
The complex has a 40-person waiting list and Adams has said she receives numerous phone calls daily from people looking for affordable housing.
The idea for the project has changed since its conception and would continue to evolve as experts create possible solutions for the site, she said. “The plans are evolving because as we get new and updated information, we use the information to make decisions,” she said.
Lee said there was a rumor that the residents would be “farmed out” to other complexes.
“You do realize that if you live in building 11, 12, or 14, you are concerned about where you’re going to live, because it really does disrupt our lives,” Lee said.
Kate Careb, vice chair of the authority, said in the worst case scenario, residents might be placed in temporary quarters for a short period of time. She also assured residents that it was too early to worry about moving.
“This not something to even be concerned about at this point because we’re still in a feasibility study,” Careb said. “Our job on the board and our first and foremost concern is to make sure that your health and safety is well taken care of.”
Elizabeth Terico, a resident of the complex, asserted that the project would displace at least 19 people, many of whom have mental health issues.
“It’s very traumatic for these people to have to move,” she said. “It’s a stress to their mental health.”
Adams said her team wanted to stay in constant communication with the residents to alleviate their concerns about the future.
If needed, on-site counselors may be hired to help residents through the transition, Careb said. “Hopefully that won’t be necessary and we’ll have a plan in place that everyone feels very comfortable about,” she said.
Terico said that people will be afraid of the changes.
“Well, change is hard. Change is difficult for anybody,” Careb replied. “But, it’s part of the plan here to expand if we can.”
After the meeting, Careb said the goal of expanding the complex was to keep elderly residents in their own homes.
“Our ultimate goal is that our residents can age in place — that’s important to us," she said.
A community conversation about the project is scheduled for Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at the complex’s community room.
For more information, email Adams at Info@stoningtonHA.org.