While the site has been vacant and boarded up for almost a year, the Mobile Housing Board of Commissioners voted on a contract that would start the demolition process for Roger Williams Homes.
Now the developer, Hunt Cos., and general contractor, Moss, have a five-month window in which to demolish the former housing complex, which is the first step in a multimillion-dollar revitalization of the entire northside neighborhood.
The budget for the demolition is set at $2.5 million and Gulf States Contracting was the firm selected to do the work, Hunt Cos.’ Stan Waterhouse said.
At issue for many commissioners is the delay from the time the contract was initially brought to the board to when it was finalized by Hunt. About three months ago, Hunt told the board a demolition contract would be ready for them to vote on in about a week; that was not the case.
“I’m concerned about delays,” Chairwoman Kimberly Pettway said. “Did we ask you to do something more quickly than you planned to?”
Waterhouse blamed the delays on a “series of issues” that created the “perfect storm.”
“We thought we’d be down the road in development by now,” Waterhouse said. “I apologize on my end for the timeliness of it. I don’t expect problems to continue.”
When asked for more specifics on the delays by Commissioner Reid Cummings, Robert Kelly, also with Hunt Cos., said they’ve been working on the contract for three months. There have been three drafts, he said.
“The first one would be simple and straightforward,” he said. “We decided instead to go with a design-build contract with the demolition to be phase one. We submitted it and the board asked us to pull out references to the redevelopment of the site. We made it a stand-alone contract.”
Cummings said the ordeal doesn’t provide evidence of competency on the part of the $30 billion company that should have a department full of attorneys who regularly work out contract details
Pettway told Waterhouse to let the board know if it was causing problems for the developer. She said commissioners were “antsy” over the project and wanted to get it started.
“We have to know we are a priority for you,” Pettway said. “Are we? Can we just see that going forward?”
Waterhouse assured Pettway that MHB and the redevelopment of Roger Williams was a priority for the developer.
“This one sits at the top of the heap,” he said. “We spend a lot of time and energy talking about this project.”
In other business, the board approved the authority’s annual housing choice voucher program plan, which would be sent to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. MHB has reduced its voucher waiting list to 1,600 from about 6,000, but commissioners wanted to know what it would take to reduce the number even more.