Construction, upgrades around the corner for Armstrong Court
GREENWICH — Edith Lewis said she has seen it all in her decades at Armstrong Court.
“We’ve had roaches, poop, you name it,” said the 70-year-old resident. “I’ve had four floods … (sewage) came up through the sinks. I had roaches in the back room, the front room. I saw one on its back on the stove. My apartment had bed bugs.”
There’s one thing that Lewis said she has never seen in her years at the affordable housing complex operated by the Greenwich Housing Authority: a major renovation.
“They need to fix it. It looks like a prison,” she said. “They improved Wilbur Peck Court. Adams Garden looks nice. This needs help.”
In the coming months, Lewis will finally start to see the start of work on improvements that she and other residents have wanted for years.
The first phase of the long-awaited construction and renovation project at Armstrong Court, built more than half a century ago, is likely to begin next month.
After years of debate among local officials, a lengthy approval process and a considerable wait for state funding, the Greenwich Housing Authority says it will start working on the most extensive upgrades the complex has ever seen in the coming months.
The state announced it had awarded $5.1 million in grants and loans to complete the two-part project in August. The agency expects to close its loan in January to obtain funds to construct a new building with 18 family units on a vacant hill in front of Armstrong’s existing structures along Davis Avenue. Once the loan is closed, Executive Director of the Housing Authority Anthony Johnson said construction will begin.
After 10 to 12 months of construction, 18 families who already live at Armstrong will be selected by the Housing Authority to move into the new facility — a big upgrade from their current accommodations.
“The new units will provide the comfort of living in a house,” said Johnson. “They will have living rooms and dining rooms, which they don’t have today. They will have central air, which they do not currently have.”
The new apartments will have two or three bedrooms, and all will have two bathrooms, which the old units do not provide.
Residents of the well-insulated Energy Star-rated homes will also have a private parking lot, Johnson said.
Once the 18 families have moved into their new apartments, Johnson said the housing authority will get to work gutting and renovating the complex’s existing buildings.
Asbestos will be remediated, a new exterior facade will be created, new roofing will be put in and the community room will be improved. One- and two-bedroom apartments will be turned into three-bedroom units with two bathrooms and furnished with new fixtures and appliances. The catwalks on the outside of the buildings will be moved and the space will become part of the interior of the new apartments.
The Housing Authority expects to close the loan to complete the second phase of the project in early spring or summer.
The agency has communicated with residents about the project throughout the entire process and had to receive their approval to proceed, Johnson said.
“They are very excited about the entire rehabilitation project,” he said.
The improvements come at a time when finding affordable rentals in Greenwich is becoming more difficult, according to Johnson.
“Finding affordable housing is a problem throughout Greenwich today,” he said, adding former rental properties in downtown Greenwich have been torn down and replaced with privately owned single-family homes.
There are currently 368 Greenwich families on a wait list for affordable housing, Johnson said. Also, there are 42 seniors and 33 people with disabilities awaiting acceptance into public housing.
“I wanna stay here, definitely,” said Shane Magiluo, who has lived at Armstrong with his mother for eight years. “Everything’s too much money now. Rent is like $2,000 sometimes.”
Magilou said that if he didn’t have the option of public housing, he would likely have to move out of his community and farther away from his job at a pharmacy down the street from Armstrong.
“That’s the bottom line,” said Lewis. “You can’t afford to live anywhere else.”