The rumble of construction and dirt at Elmore Square have been raining down on Bentley Drive in the first phase of rebuilding Addison Terrace, where the first 20 new units will be ready by September.
While some former residents who were displaced are lining up to return, those among 200 households on Bentley Drive are getting in line right behind them. But the new Addison won't fit everyone who wants to get in.
The reinvention of Addison Terrace, one of the nation's oldest public housing complexes, from 1941, is another chapter in the continuing saga of best practice in the industry. When it is complete -- on more than 40 acres at Elmore Square and along Bentley Drive in the middle of the Hill District -- the new version have 400 units, compared to the previous 734 units.
"It will be a different program than public housing or Section 8," Naomi Byrne, chief operating officer of the Pittsburgh Housing Authority, told about 35 residents and former residents at a recent informational meeting.
Increasingly, housing authority clients are living in privately managed communities among people paying market rate. KBK Enterprises will manage the new Addison Terrace, where 30 percent of the units will rent at market rate, said Tisha Germany, KBK's assistant vice president. Incomes up to 80 percent of the median area income qualify people for subsidized housing.
Every month, KBK expects another 20 units to be ready, Ms. Germany said. The redevelopment, in several phases, is expected to cost about $160 million, with street and public utility upgrades.
Another informational meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Pittsburgh Weil PreK-5, 2250 Centre Ave., for former and current residents of Bentley Drive.
"As soon as the weather breaks, it's going to get noisier and dustier, but it will mean that we're that much closer," Ms. Germany told the crowd at the meeting.
Sandra Almond, a resident since 1962, and Dolores Bailey, since 1986 -- both officers in the Addison Terrace Resident Council -- expect seniority to carry them from Bentley Drive to new units at Elmore Square.
The housing authority has sent letters to the former residents it can find to give them an option to return, said Michelle Jackson, chief community affairs officer. Those who couldn't be reached may have moved again, and some will choose to stay where they landed.
Others may have seniority but not qualify to return. For example, if you vacated a one-bedroom apartment but have had a child or two since, there may not be enough two- or three-bedroom units left based on seniority. If you want to downsize from two bedrooms, all the one-bedroom units may be gobbled up by people higher on the list.
Veronica Norfleet lived for five years at Addison Terrace and hopes to get back there with three children. When she relocated, she was working as a home health aide and qualified for a Section 8 voucher. She found a house in Knoxville.
"It's close to school and the library," she said, "but when it rains really bad or when we got all that snow, my front room leaks. It's one reason I want to move back. Addison was convenient. Out my back window I could see the library and the school. There are also plenty of buses."
Before gang violence beset public housing residents in the late 1980s and 1990s, the previous erosion of the Hill's social structure drove some public housing residents out, Ms. Bailey said.
Private management and income integration are efforts to stabilize these communities. Residents are screened more strictly for rental, financial and criminal history than in public housing and they are responsible for getting gas and electric service in their name. At Addison, a utility allowance will be calculated into rent payments, which are based on income, but if a tenant incurs gas and electric costs beyond that, he has to pay those extra costs.
Ms. Germany said the units are so energy efficient that "if you are living responsibly you should be fine."
Ms. Bailey and Ms. Almond say they are eager to live on Elmore Square but have been happy on Bentley.
"When I first moved here, it was just like the way I was raised," Ms. Almond said. "They say it takes a community to raise a child and that's the way it was here. It was also mixed race.
"There was a group of five or six women we called 'the mothers,' and they came up with ideas of things to do for kids and they're the ones who kept the community together. That was before we needed tenant councils. Now you might say 'Hello, how are you?' and that will be the end of the conversation."
But, she said, the worst days of public housing are over.
"Right now," she said, "it's just noisy and dusty."
Former residents of Addison Terrace may call relocation specialist Cassandra Palmer at 412-456-5000, ext. 1014, to be included in discussions about the redevelopment.
Diana Nelson Jones: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1626. Read her blog City Walkabout at www.post-gazette.com/citywalk.