are very accessible and were built for a reason,” says Wilson, adding that the jobs created by new businesses and development projects are sorely needed in the community.
The LPCCD projects are scattered within a 10 block radius near Lincoln Park. The neighborhood’s proximity to mass transit makes it an optimal location to build an environmentally sustainable community because it reduces the need to drive, a commuting option which increases harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
So far, LPCCD has built 18 housing units, an equivalent of 24,000 square feet, and plans to build seven more. The Washington Street mixed use buildings in Lincoln Park are the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified homes built in Newark, and the LPCCD has the greatest number of Gold Level LEED housing units near certification in New Jersey. The buildings will use low-VOC paints and recyclable materials.
The current economic downturn has unfortunately changed some of the plans. Originally, 70% of the housing was set to be owner-occupied and 30% as rentals, but now 90% of the housing developments will be rentals.
“People are risk averse right now. They don’t want to take the chance that it won’t be profitable. No one knows if low income people will be able to get mortgages in the future,” says Wilson.
Nevertheless, Wilson is determined to build through the drought and wait for the government to implement policies that value affordable and sustainable housing, such as President-elect Barack Obama’s plan to institute a national public works program to create jobs and revive the economy.
“We still need sustainable housing and jobs, but what does that look like in this market?” asks Wilson, who plans to simplify his construction materials, accelerate his timeline and build through the real estate drought. “We are approaching it as a public works project and a model for urban revitalization and development. We don’t have all of the answers but we know that sustainable development is the key.”
Come back tomorrow to read Part II: Using Arts and Culture as an Economic Engine