Groundbreaking Ceremony Marks Start of New Era for The Frank Berry Courts Housing Community in Meridian, MS

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Stimulus Funding Enables Historic Revitalization of Affordable Housing

The stimulus funds will not only provide much needed housing for our families with low incomes, but will also create many good construction jobs for our community as we embark on this important community development

Wearing hard hats and armed with shovels, city and state officials broke ground on Frank Berry Courts during a ceremony held Oct. 19 to mark the start of an historic revitalization effort being under taken by the Meridian Housing Authority (MHA) that will bring new affordable housing to the city as well as good construction jobs to the local economy.

“We are so proud to be able to start this rehabilitation program that will assure the preservation of Frank Berry Courts as decent, attractive, and affordable housing for many decades into the future,” said Ronald J. Turner Sr., MHA’s executive director.

The MHA, with support from both the city and the county, was successful in securing a Capital Fund Recovery Competitive Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to fund a complete rehabilitation of Frank Berry Courts, which was originally constructed in 1939. The community, which provides housing for more than 100 families, had become outdated and distressed over the years, with many of its major systems obsolete.

The $8.5 million grant funded through the American Recovery and Re-Investment Act enabled the Housing Authority and its development partner, The Michaels Development Company, to move forward with the planned $12 million rehabilitation program. Additional funding will come from the sale of tax-exempt bonds and low income housing tax credits.

“The stimulus funds will not only provide much needed housing for our families with low incomes, but will also create many good construction jobs for our community as we embark on this important community development,” Turner said.

Among the many improvements planned for Frank Berry Courts are central heat and air, new energy efficient windows, entry doors, roofs and vinyl siding. Interior improvements include new baths and kitchens with energy star appliances. All units will be painted and all floors will be tiled or carpeted, as appropriate. Improvements to the common areas, in scale and scope, are similar to those planned for the residential buildings.

"Years and years ago, it was called 'public housing' or 'projects.' This is as far from a 'project' as you can get," said Mayor Cheri Barry. "We are bringing a better quality of life to the residents of Mississippi."

Michaels Development Company, the nation’s leading affordable housing developer, has worked with public housing authorities throughout the country on similar developments. Its sister company, Interstate Realty Management, will provide property management as well social services to Frank Berry Courts when the rehabilitation program is complete.

“We are rebuilding to strengthen our community and empower our residents,” Turner said. “This is truly an historic occasion.”

In addition to the Mayor, dignitaries attending the groundbreaking ceremony included Councilman Jesse Palmer; Lauderdale County Supervisors Joe Norwood and Craig Hitt; MHA Board Chairman and State Rep. Wilbert Jones, Holly Knight, Public Housing Director and Mary Merchant, Acting Field Director of HUD’s Field Office in Jackson, MS. Wade Jones offered remarks on behalf of the East Mississippi Business Development Corporation, and Frank Berry residents Tina Dozier and Joann Bell provided a resident perspective.

Students from Carver Elementary School and Meridian High School also participated by providing the Presentation of Colors and leading the crowd of about 80 people in the Pledge of Allegiance. The National Anthem was sung by MHA Executive Director Ronald Turner.

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Laura Zaner
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