The Virgin Islands Housing Authority (VIHA) celebrates the successful renovation of the initial 82 units at Walter I.M Hodge Pavilion, marking the completion of the first phase in a series aimed at transforming public housing within the territory. At the ribbon-cutting ceremony held on Thursday, officials proudly showcased the revamped apartments to the community.
VIHA Executive Director, Robert Graham, expressed his enthusiasm stating, “The ongoing construction symbolizes our earnest commitment to revitalizing the territory’s public housing infrastructure. It’s a tangible step forward that encapsulates our mission.” He emphasized that the initiative is designed to not only enhance living conditions but also foster community engagement and empowerment, encouraging the first 82 households to actively participate in the resident council to further refine communal programs.
The project, backed not by HUD or local funds, but by investor equity, has gathered substantial annual funding. This financial support underscores the investors’ trust in VIHA’s ‘Right Path’ resident services plan aimed at uplifting every resident within Hodge Pavilion.
James Benton, the President of J Benton Construction, LLC, outlined the key improvements made to the apartments including modernized design elements, updated plumbing and electrical systems, and the incorporation of energy-efficient lighting and fixtures. The premises now also boast solar panels, emergency generators, and solar-powered outdoor lighting, reinforcing the community’s move towards sustainability. Additional amenities like a senior center, playground, community gardens, and renovated basketball courts and community center were highlighted, aiming to cater to the residents’ diverse needs.
The meticulous efforts poured into this project were evident, with Benton revealing that 20 companies and over 300 tradespeople contributed a combined 250,000 hours to ensure the success of this initial phase. This collective endeavor resonates with the broader goal of promoting better living standards, which as Michael Lohr from the Urban Investment Group of Goldman Sachs Asset Management noted, is crucial for improved health outcomes, economic mobility, and employment opportunities.
Interim Executive Director of the VI Housing Finance Authority, Dayna Clendinen, reminisced about the unity displayed post the 2017 hurricanes, stating that the collaborative spirit fostered then continues to drive the rehabilitation efforts at Walter Hodge. The undertaking showcases the remarkable outcomes achievable through concerted effort and resilient partnerships.
Senate President Novelle Francis lauded the novel design approach which he believes will set a positive precedent for affordable housing in the region. Meanwhile, Governor Albert Bryan Jr. reiterated the significance of collective endeavor, spotlighting the pivotal roles of investment partners, legislators, private sector stakeholders, and governmental employees in propelling not just the Walter Hodge Pavilion project, but the broader vision of transforming the territory’s housing landscape.
This event reflected a shared optimism towards creating a conducive living environment, empowering residents, and fostering a sense of community, which are fundamental for the holistic development of the territory.