Chatham Square: transforming blight into opportunity

Brinshore’s redevelopment of the troubled Lafayette, Indiana Bridgeway Apartment’s complex has created Chatham Square, which is transforming and revitalizing the surrounding community.

When the ribbon was cut in early May to celebrate the stunning transformation of the former blight-ridden Bridgeway apartment complex into Chatham Square – a state-of-the-art housing community that includes tennis courts, a community center, and a community garden – there was much more going on than first met the eye.

While onlookers saw a bright, pedestrian-friendly, new-urbanist community with affordable housing, a playground, and a net-zero energy solar-powered home designed by students at Purdue University, the impact of the redevelopment has been transformative for the Glen Acres Lafayette community in much deeper ways.

The story begins with the Bridgeway Apartments that occupied the land now known as Chatham Square.

“The blight and devastation to a neighborhood that can come through poor management and drugs, crime and gangs was painfully obvious at the former Bridgeway Apartments,” said Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski.

Peter Hunt of the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA) echoed that sentiment. “Prior to the construction of Chatham Square, the Glen Acres neighborhood had been blighted by the impact of Bridgeway,” said Hunt. The blight posed a danger to residents of the community, brought down property values in the surrounding area, and area residents complained of growing crime rates.

In 2009, the City of Lafayette purchased the property out of foreclosure and led a $20 million effort to demolish the buildings and recreate it as Chatham Square, a community featuring 19 acres, 10 new single-family homes, and 89 rental units within 32 buildings.

Brinshore signed on as the developer of the project in a dynamic collaboration with the State of Indiana and the City of Lafayette. $6.17 million of the funding for the development came from Housing and Urban Development’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds, and carried with it the condition that the project make an effort to train and employ low-income individuals – a commitment Brinshore eagerly met by working to employ low-income individuals from the area.

The Brinshore project’s contractor, Kettelhut Construction, reached out to the Indiana Plan, an organization that is tied to Indiana-based unions that conduct outreach to minorities in high schools and career fairs to introduce them to the benefits of a career in construction. Through that connection, the project employed eleven low-income area workers, providing them with valuable on-site job experience while drastically transforming the Glen Acres neighborhood. Six of those workers are now working in construction full time with the subcontractors they met at Chatham Square.

With the ribbon cutting in May, gone are the dark, drab, crowded barracks style housing units that used to blight the neighborhood.

“They’ve been replaced by attractive homes and a pedestrian-friendly community with brightly colored, well-designed interiors and single-family houses situated to create an active and livable community,” said Mayor Roswarski at the development’s unveiling.

The first two of nine single-family homes to be built by Brinshore are completed and on the market, with seven others to follow, along with the INHome, Purdue’s award-winning zero-energy solar home. The homes are being sold to purchasers whose income does not exceed 120 percent of the areas’ medium income, assuring affordability for area residents. Additionally, the homes include energy efficiency measures and appliances, helping to drive down utility costs for residents.

“I had the highest expectations for this property’s renewal, communicated those expectations to Brinshore, and Brinshore came through,” continued Mayor Roswarski. “Listening to our requests, seeking neighborhood input, modeling the architecture after our community’s and bringing its own expertise, Brinshore created a development that shines.”

The development also contains a community garden, with 30 plots available to Chatham Square and neighborhood residents to grow their own produce, flowers and plants, providing a welcoming addition to the area and accessible to all in the community. On-site gardening classes will be offered periodically by Purdue’s Cooperative Extension Service.

In addition to the jobs for local residents that the development helped create, Peter Hunt of the IHCDA remarked on the new people that the development will bring to the community.

“Chatham Square has helped to provide a vision improvement to the area as well as brought in new residents,” he said. “The project has been a great success and proven to be a worthwhile investment. It’s helped the neighborhood to recover and now provides a better place to live for all local residents.”

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