DANVILLE — After months of work, some newly renovated apartments at the Madison Court public housing complex are ready for occupancy.
"Awesome! Really awesome!," exclaimed Dorothy Townsend, as she walked through a one-bedroom unit at the small, L-shaped complex at 215 E. Madison St. near downtown Danville.
While Townsend lives at nearby Churchill Towers, another Danville Housing Authority complex for senior and disabled residents and is president of its residents' council, she made it clear to officials who were showing her around that she's more than willing to move.
"This is my bedroom. This is my apartment," Townsend said, admiring the appliances, additional closet and pantry space and warm, inviting decor.
The housing authority launched the renovation last spring. It was the first time the nearly 50-year-old building has gotten a major overhaul.
"They all had the old boiler-heating systems," Executive Director Greg Hilleary said. "They didn't even have showers. That made it difficult for some of the older residents."
When the project started, the housing authority was toward the end of a $5 million project to change out refrigerators, stoves, toilets, shower heads, faucets, ceiling fans and light fixtures with energy-efficient ones throughout its five housing developments.
"Madison Court was targeted to get all of that as well. We wrapped the renovation around that work so we weren't putting brand new appliances and fixtures in an outdated building," Hilleary said, adding the $500,000 rehab project was paid for with capital project funds, while the appliances, lights, etc. were paid for with the energy performance project funds.
The renovation, done by John Flach Builders of Teutopolis, called for stripping the building's interior down to the studs; installing new electrical wiring, lighting and heating and air-conditioning systems; putting up drywall and ceilings; and laying vinyl flooring that resembles wood. It also called for tearing out old kitchen cabinets and countertops and replacing them; installing stainless steel sinks, refrigerators and stoves; and gutting the bathroom and installing tubs with showers, sinks and toilets.
The exception is a handicapped-accessible unit, which got a roll-in shower to accommodate a wheelchair.
"These lights, ceiling fans, PTAC units are all high-efficiency rated. The toilets are low-flow. It's about as efficient as you can make an existing building," said Randy Kobel, the housing authority's director of developments and facilities. That work was done by Johnson Controls Inc.
He said everything is low maintenance, as well.
"If the floor gets damaged, you can pull up a panel and replace it," Kobel said.
In addition, the project converted four efficiencies into two one-bedroom apartments, giving the complex eight one-bedroom units.
"The efficiencies are harder to market," Hilleary said. "People prefer more space, and those units are much bigger now."
The other units also gained additional space when the boiler system was removed. A room that housed boiler valves is now a 6-foot-square storage closet.
Hilleary said contractors are still working on two units, which should be completed in March. Meantime, the authority's property management department is getting ready to review applications of potential tenants.
"I don't think we'll have any problem filling them," Hilleary said. "We have a wait list of senior and disabled folk who qualify. We also relocated some folks to other properties initially. Some have asked if they could move back."