New units opened in ongoing transformation of Hammond's Columbia Center

2012-07-25T19:15:00Z 2012-07-25T19:16:38Z New units opened in ongoing transformation of Hammond's Columbia CenterBy Chelsea Schneider Kirk chelsea.schneider@nwi.com, (219) 933-3241 nwitimes.com

HAMMOND | New housing units were officially opened Wednesday at Columbia Center in the fourth project undertaken at the complex aimed at improving affordable housing in the city.

The $17 million American Heartland Homes 2 project includes 40 new residential units and nine remodeled units as the Housing Authority works to transform the 1940s-era complex along 173rd Street.

“Today it looks like a home,” Housing Authority board member Joseph McCarthy told about 30 people gathered for the unveiling.

McCarthy, who grew up at Columbia Center, said it's the housing authority's responsibility to ensure the units are maintained.

“When people hit the bottom and reach the safety net, Hammond, Indiana, has an outstanding first step up,” McCarthy said.

After the ribbon cutting, Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. toured one of the units. Twenty-four of the units are ready to be leased, and the rest are expected to be completed by August.

McDermott remembered that when he was on the campaign trail people would ask what his plans were for Columbia Center.

“Now when you drive around, it looks like a brand new complex,” McDermott said.

The project was financed mainly through low-income housing tax credits. The Richman Group of Stamford, Conn., invested in the project and CITI Bank provided financing for construction. Long-term debt financing is through a mixed-finance loan from the Hammond Housing Authority, which will use funds awarded to the housing authority from the federal stimulus and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The housing authority is planning a final phase of work at Columbia Center that includes construction of 108 new residential units.

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