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Mar 26, 2018

Liberty Gardens Breaks Ground on New Community Center

“Liberty Gardens, a 180-unit housing project, has stood for 60 years as one of the main public housing centers in the city. During a groundbreaking ceremony on Monday morning, a host of local elected officials gathered to dedicate a new community center in the complex to Edward W. Corr, the treasurer of the Rome Housing Authority’s board of commissioners.

Corr, 93, was recognized for serving on the board for more than 50 years and his role in the Liberty Gardens rehabilitation project. During the ceremony, Corr received numerous letters of commendation for his service, including a proclamation from the city declaring Aug. 20 as Edward Corr Day.

The 6,000-square-foot community building will include meeting space, a computer lab with Internet access, a kitchen and a central laundry room. Working with the commission has been a civic duty and seeing the project move toward completion has made him proud, Corr said. “When I walk around the complex and see all of it, it makes me thankful to have been a part of it,” he said.

Over the past year, the city and Omni Development, an Albany-based developer, have been renovating older buildings and building new units at Liberty Gardens, which was built in 1952 and provides subsidized housing for low-income residents.

By the end of this year, more than 100 units will be complete. The three-phase, $40 million project will take several more years to complete, said Duncan Barrett, chief operating officer of Omni Housing Development. “It might be hard to see the final picture right now but when everything is in place I promise you the residents, the city and the state will be proud of this project,” he said.

The Rome Housing Authority received a $2.4 million low-interest loan along with an allocation of Low Income Housing Credits worth $1.65 million. This funding financed the rehabilitation of 78 out of the 180 apartments.

Many of the speakers at the ceremony praised the work and dedication of the state office of General Services Commissioner RoAnn Destito of Rome in pushing for the project. Previously, Destito served as state Assemblywoman for the 116th District.

Over the years, the apartments slowly fell into disrepair. Much of the renovation efforts focused on making the apartments energy efficient to keep tenants’ bills as low as possible. Destito recalled a tour of one woman’s apartment she took three years ago. “It was in the middle of winter and there was ice building up on the inside of her windows,” she said. “There were clearly issues there.”

Omni Housing Development will become the new management for the site, taking it off the hands of the city’s housing authority. The work at the project benefits not only residents in the complex but nearby residents and the local economy as well, said Councilwoman Ramona Smith. “It’s a stepping stone for a lot of residents,” she said. “Many, not all of them will, but some will go on to use this leg up to become homeowners someday.” Smith, D-4, has represented the area for the past eight years. Bringing the project to fruition has been one of her major goals, she said.” M. Scott Allen of GAR Associates, Inc. completed an appraisal and market study on this project in 2012.

Utica Observer-Dispatch
August 2012