New affordable housing gem rises on Walker Road

DOVER — The Village at McKee Branch is more than just a new name painted on a sign for a housing complex that sits on the western end of Walker Road.

Rather, the $7.8 million project has a completely modern and renovated look and offers hope, pride and safety for the residents of the community.

Gov. Jack Markell and Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen joined other dignitaries and residents on Thursday as they cut a red ribbon signifying the completion of The Village at McKee Branch, which has completely transformed from its image and name as run-down Walker Woods just more than a year ago.

“These investments are not just investments in physical facilities,” Gov. Markell said. “These are investments is real people. In the end, these are just buildings. It’s the people that live in these buildings who make it a strong community.”

Residents Zoe Bakoko (bandana) and Adrianna Butcher (white shirt) join Gov. Jack Markell, Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen and several other dignitaries as they cut the ribbon to celebrate the completion of The Village at McKee Branch affordable housing development. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

Residents Zoe Bakoko (bandana) and Adrianna Butcher (white shirt) join Gov. Jack Markell, Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen and several other dignitaries as they cut the ribbon to celebrate the completion of The Village at McKee Branch affordable housing development. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

The Village at McKee Branch was developed by the Milford Housing Development Corporation (MHDC), Discover Bank, the Delaware State Housing Authority and other local agencies.

The renovation project involved converting 12 townhomes into 66 apartments with a new community center, security cameras, a central laundry facility, two recreational areas and a walking path.

Just a glimpse into the sparkling new apartment complex gives Mayor Christiansen hope at what can be when it comes to providing quality affordable housing options for Dover residents.

“I think this continues to prove something that I’ve said all along, that the city of Dover is growing, it’s on the move, we’re revitalizing a lot of the old housing that we had and providing not just a place to stay for people, but a home,” he said.

“When you have people who have homes and a vested interest in the community it’s going to provide for pride in the entire community, as well as public safety. We need to do this all over the city, partner with the state and federal government to make things like this happen.”

The Village at McKee Branch is a far cry from when it was called Walker Woods and now offers a higher quality of living to the local senior community and low-income families.

To resident Adrianna Butcher, the renovated apartments offer a peace of mind. She has lived through the transformation of the complex.

“We were here when a young boy got shot here [in 2015] and it was literally a door from my house,” Ms. Butcher said. “I literally saw him right after he got shot. I’m not used to that.

“Then, when I first smelled my new apartment, I didn’t know what it was. Due to the rancid smell that we used to have live with I was desensitized to the smell of freshness. Now my kids have space, they have a clean room – and we have hope.”

David W. Moore, president and CEO of MHDC, said he is amazed at how so many entities came together to create a completely new affordable community.

“To see this complex before and after the transformation is amazing,” Mr. Moore said. “With it now completed and families living here and loving it, makes all the hard work of purchasing the property, securing the financing through special assistance from Discover Bank, construction and marketing the new complex worth it.”

Discover Bank helped ensure the project would come to fruition by providing a low-interest loan and favorable Low Income Housing Tax Credit equity investment.

Work to demolish the 30-year-old townhomes, taking them down to their concrete foundations, began last September.

The completion of the new apartments – which are mostly three bedroom units – pleased Anas Ben Addi, Director of the Delaware State Housing Authority, who lives about one mile east of the complex.

“This development, The Village of McKee Branch, is an example of what we can achieve working across government and the private sector to help real Delawareans,” Mr. Addi said. “Working with Milford Housing Development Corporation, Discover and others, we are increasing access to quality, affordable housing for residents of Dover.

“We think that will make a real difference in the community.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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