Whatcoat Village Apartments to receive $8 million makeover

A worker carries a door to the trash bin at Whatcoat Village Apartments in Dover. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

A worker carries a door to the trash bin at Whatcoat Village Apartments in Dover. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — The residents of the Whatcoat Village Apartments have not witnessed any major upgrades at the complex since it was first built around 40 years ago.

That is all about to change as an $8 million project is set to get underway and is designed to bring the five-building, rent-restricted 78-unit complex up to today’s housing standards.

The renovations are expected to be completed by December 2017. Funding for the project will be provided through the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, grants, loans and tax credits.

Vandana Sareen, vice president of The Michaels Organization, which manages Whatcoat Village, said the residents are excited about the upcoming improvements coming to the complex that’s located next to Whatcoat United Methodist Church off Saulsbury Road.

“The owner and management had a meeting with the residents pre-award last summer in 2015 and post-award in November 2015,” she said. “The proposed renovation and improvements were well received by the residents.

“The renovation will bring the units to present code requirements. There will be new heating and cooling systems, new windows and new vinyl plank flooring. The kitchens and baths will be renovated and the apartment buildings will also get new pitch roof.”

Whatcoat United Methodist Church and the Whatcoat Community Development Inc. own the apartments, which are focused on providing housing for low- to moderate-income families.

Ms. Sareen said that around two-thirds of the complex’s residents receive rental subsidies from HUD and that yearly income per family averages around $15,000 to $20,000.

The renovations, which will come complete with a new 2,000-square-foot-plus community center, will not change the pricing structure for residents of the complex.

Rental fees for the apartments range from $600 to around $750 per month, according to Ms. Sareen, depending on the size of the family occupying the apartment and the number of bedrooms.

“The rent structure for the residents will not change post-renovation and the residents will not have to pay any more than 30 percent of their income, which is the current requirement,” Ms. Sareen said. “We will be building a new community building on site, which will include a multi-purpose room, leasing office, maintenance shop, supportive services office and a computer/business center for residents’ use.”

The upgrades will also include the addition of centralized security cameras and controlled access to the buildings.

That will be important considering that in March 2016 a man was captured at the complex carrying a loaded gun and, in September 2015, a man was found shot in the chest outside the apartments.

In September 2014 a man was robbed by four people inside one of the buildings and Imeer Waddell, 18, was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting at the apartments in February 2013.

The nearly 15-month renovation project will force families to temporarily relocate from their apartments at the complex.

“The renovation is going to take place in phases,” said Ms. Sareen “There are ‘hotel’ temporary units on site and the residents from each phase will be moved temporarily into the ‘hotel’ unit during the renovation of their unit and then moved back into their newly renovated unit.”

Earlier this summer, Whatcoat Community Development Inc., a 503(c)(3) corporation, applied for property tax exemption and the Board of Assessment Appeals recommended the granting of the property tax exemption based on the recommendation of the City Solicitors.

The assessed value of the property is currently $4,186,800. This equates to property tax levy of $16,956.54.

Whatcoat and Dover City Manager Scott Koenig reached agreement on a PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) payment of $9,000 per year that will help offset costs for city services, such as fire and police protection.

Ms. Sareen said the renovations will be vital for getting the buildings up to current code and that even though the apartments have undergone general maintenance over the years, 40 years of use has caused a lot of wear and tear on the units.

“A lot of upgrades will be done; however, affordable housing tenants would still be targeted and the population served would be similar to the current population,” she said.

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