Many Cherry Tree Crossing tenants packed in a cramped community center cheered Tuesday when Augusta Housing Authority officials formally announced the planned demolition of the public housing development.
“This place is not going to be remodeled. It’s going to be torn down,” Director of Resident Services Buddy Oldfield said to applause.
More than 200 people crammed into the complex’s community center, and several dozen more overflowed into hallways and outdoors as officials explained the relocation process. The absence of a microphone and amplification system made it difficult for the crowd to hear, and a second meeting was scheduled for 4 p.m. Wednesday at the request of residents.
Formal approval of the demolition from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is expected in late spring. Then, a required mailing will be sent to residents giving a 90-day notification before relocation begins, Oldfield said.
“No one go home this afternoon and start packing up,” he said.
Demolition will make room for Augusta’s second mixed-income development.
Cherry Tree tenants were told they can choose to move to another public housing development or take a Section 8 voucher to apply toward privately owned housing that accepts the vouchers.
“Augusta Housing Authority has one mission, and that’s to help you with your housing,” board Chairman Rodger Murchison said. “If you live in Cherry Tree Crossing, you’re part of our family and we’re
not letting that family go.”
A few people thought officials planned to remodel Cherry Tree and move them back in. The crowd applauded announcements that relocation for families with school-age children will be done during the summer.
Relocation experts will meet with residents four to five times to determine new housing that fits needs for bedrooms, school zones and other priorities, Oldfield said. A moving company will be provided to move residents for free, or a resident can take the money that would be used and hire their own movers.
Resident Elizabeth Hill wants a voucher to move her 12-year-old granddaughter out of public housing.
“I’m ready. I’m ready to go,” Hill said. “They are telling me what I want to hear.”