By Amanda Amsel
Prairie Township is working with a non-profit group in an attempt to renovate apartment buildings that have plagued the township for years.
“There are still several buildings from the former Metro West Apartments that are in the township,” said Tracy Hatmaker, Prairie Township administrator. “While Prairie Township wants these buildings torn down and has an order to do so, we are working with Homes on the Hill to try to renovate them.”
Homes on the Hill Community Development Corporation is a non-profit that strengthens neighborhoods by providing affordable housing for low to moderate income families. According to Hatmaker, Homes on the Hill wants to renovate the buildings and turn them into affordable housing instead of tearing them down.
There are several buildings left from the Metro West Apartments, a few are in Prairie Township and the rest are in Franklin Township.
“Prairie Township can only tear down the buildings that are in our township,” Hatmaker said. “So, in our opinion, it makes more sense to let Homes on the Hill try to renovate them than to tear down a few and have the rest remaining.”
Hatmaker said Homes on the Hill is applying for a tax credit to move forward with the renovation, however they have had difficulties getting the tax credit in the past.
“Right now, Homes on the Hill is looking for another partner to reapply for the tax credit,”
Hatmaker said. “They are confident they were denied last time because of an irregularity and feel once they find the appropriate partner they will be approved.”
Prairie Township has been public about its hesitation about whether these apartments can be renovated.
According to Hatmaker, a fire broke out in the apartments in 2004 and killed 10 people. Since then, the apartments sat vacant until Prairie Township started demolishing them last year and 17 buildings have been torn down.
“These buildings have been a safety hazard for years, so we are suspicious that they will be able to be renovated,” Hatmaker said. “However, architects have said they have some interesting ideas on how to make them safe.”
Once the proposed renovation is complete, the buildings would be classified as affordable housing. No renovation date has been set and it is contingent on the Homes on the Hill getting a tax credit for the project.