By Stefanie Jackson – Congresswoman Elaine Luria visited the New Road community in Exmore April 18 to celebrate the award of $500,000 in federal funding for the New Road Community Development Group’s Legacy Project for affordable housing.
It was one of three stops the congresswoman made on the Eastern Shore on Monday to award Accomack and Northampton counties $11.2 million of more than $18.5 million in total Community Project Funding she secured for her district.
This type of federal funding was previously called earmarks, which were banned more than a decade ago but were recently reintroduced with a new name and new regulations intended to prevent program abuse and wasteful spending.
Ava Gabrielle-Wise, executive director of New Road Community Development Group, thanked Luria for her work. Gabrielle-Wise explained the Legacy Project was named to honor her mother, the late Ruth Wise, who was the executive director of the New Road group when it was founded 30 years ago.
New Road had bought 30 acres of land and redeveloped parts that had existing housing, and the group began to build homes on the previously undeveloped areas. The Legacy Project will build housing on the the remaining undeveloped land in New Road, approximately nine acres.
Federal, state, and local politicians and leaders of public and private organizations met for the event Monday afternoon in one of the six new homes under construction in New Road, a small community on the west side of U.S. Route 13, in Exmore.
The construction of the new single-family dwellings, which range in size from two tiny homes to a four-bedroom home, is the first of three phases of the Legacy Project.
The first phase was made possible with funding from Virginia Housing and the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development’s Acquire, Renovate, and Sell loan program. A groundbreaking was held in January and construction is expected to be completed in July.
The $500,000 in Community Project Funding will support the Legacy Project’s second phase. The grant will fund site development of land on Ruth Wise Road, near the highway. Virginia Housing is funding the predevelopment, planning, design, and engineering.
Approximately 30 housing units will be built: eight duplexes totaling 16 housing units and a three-story building for multi-family housing, which may be a mixed-use building with commercial space downstairs and residential units upstairs. A groundbreaking is expected to be held by spring 2023.
On a brief tour of the present and future development sites within the New Road community, Gabrielle-Wise explained that each duplex will provide a wealth-building opportunity for its owners, who will live in one of its two housing units while renting out the other.
The third phase of the Legacy Project is still in its conceptual phase but includes plans for 12 units of senior housing.
At the end of the Legacy Project, the New Road community will be completely built out.
Attendees of the event in New Road on Monday included Exmore’s Director of Utilities and Zoning Taylor Dukes, Town Manager Robert Duer, and Councilman Chase Sturgis.
Gabrielle-Wise called Exmore “the absolutely best partners that a community could ask for in doing development.”
She thanked Chris Thompson, Virginia Housing’s director of strategic housing, for his “stellar support” and the New Road community for its longstanding support.
Susan Dewey, Virginia Housing’s chief executive officer, appreciated Gabrielle-Wise for her “passion … in wanting to serve your community” and thanked the project’s local, state, and federal government partners.
“The real people that we should be celebrating are the people that will get to live in these homes,” Dewey said.
State Sen. Lynwood Lewis commended Luria for the “shot in the arm” that will boost efforts to provide affordable housing on the Eastern Shore, which is “fantastic and a tribute to her leadership, her hard work, and the attention that she pays to what is really a very small portion of the district, but she gives us a lot … and has given us some great resources today.”
Representatives of the office of U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine also were present at the event.
Bill Curtis, assistant director of the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), spoke on behalf of its director, Bryan Horn, and Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
Curtis said DHCD is “heavily engaged over here on the Eastern Shore in many, many projects and expects to have more yet to come.”
He acknowledged projects like the Legacy Project require a “multiplicity of funding streams to pull these together – many, many grants – and my hat’s off to those who manage all of the grants and the timing and make sure everything comes together.”
Curtis praised the construction work that has been accomplished in the last three months under the direction of Warren Thomas, chief executive officer of RMT Construction.
Northampton County Administrator Charlie Kolakowski pledged Northampton’s continued support of Gabrielle-Wise and others working on initiatives like the Legacy Project “to provide more affordable housing throughout the county. It’s a big need, a big project, and this is the kind of help that we need.”
Click on the photo below to view it in full size.