Thursday afternoon, officials from the Merrill Area Housing Authority (MAHA) and Horizon Development Group announced the commencement of the much anticipated, heavily publicized construction of a new 38-unit facility to known as Stone Bridge Apartment complex on West Main Street across from Park Place. According to Horizon Construction project manager Dave Jellings, some grading and prep work has already begun as of Wednesday, upon the closing of the financing process; with full mobilization of equipment and crews to kick-off right away Monday morning.
The Stone Bridge complex is set to be completed and move-in ready by next September with the two-phase Park Place renovation to begin immediately after. The Westgate renovation will commence next June, with a completion date set for September as well.
“We carefully set our time line with our residents and their needs in mind,” stated MAHA Executive Director Paul Russell. “We want to move forward with these projects while minimizing impact on their lives and routines as much as possible.”
The tri-level Stone Bridge Complex will feature 27-single bedroom units and 11-2 bedroom units measuring between 700 and 1,000 square feet. 12 units will be handicap accessible.
Each level will have its own laundry amenities while each unit will feature a range of amenities including central air, access to cable TV and internet. Upper units will include decks and lower units will include outdoor patios. The complex will also feature a community cafeteria, beauty salon and fitness center.
The building’s namesake comes as a result of a naming contest amongst MAHA residents this past summer. During the contest, residents submitted their ideas for a name for the new complex and the ceremony concluded on June 30; in the wake of over 200 entries.
Retired educator Nancy Muchinske was the winner, suggesting the building be named after the nearby 113-year-old, three-arch stone bridge.
The Park Place project will consist of each existing unit being expanded by 50% of their current size; resulting in a total of 54 new apartment units when the project wraps up next fall.
“Currently the size of the units at Park Place are very small. But that is all going to change with the upcoming renovation” Jellings said.
Currently Park Place units average around 400 square feet each. However following renovation, each unit will measure between 700 and 825 square feet. Along with expanding the overall size of units, will be enlarging bathrooms and making them ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant.
“This is the most complex project I have ever had to plan and organize in my career,” Russell said earlier this summer, when the first architectural drawings of the projects were unveiled.. “It is multi-dimensional in the sense that there is a conversion from public housing to Section 8 housing platform, which is administrative in nature. In addition there will be a new construction phase, a rehabilitation phase and renovation phase to existing buildings.
“Park Place and Westgate have served hundreds of Merrill residents over the past 47 years,” Russell adds.
“These affordable housing units for families, elderly and disabled members of our community, is a necessary component to the overall housing stock in the city. When this project concludes in 2019, it will address a need in the community for another 50 years.”
Russell emphasizes the project’s result will not reflect any growth or increase in the number of housing units MAHA currently oversees. MAHA currently manages 102 units (10 at Westgate and 92 at park place). The Park Place project will not include any additional rooms, but rather remodeling and expanding current units in the facility.
The $15.1 million project is funded by both Federal Tax Credits, equity from a private investor and MAHA. Additional funding is being provided by a Federal Home Loan Grant and fund raising from the Federal department of Urban Development (HUD), ultimately resulting in the project moving forward at zero cost to city or county tax payers.