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Affordable housing plan still on track after fire

Seal of Rockville MdROCKVILLE — Rockville’s plans for revamping affordable housing won’t be derailed by the effects of a fire that broke out at the Fireside Park Apartments almost two weeks ago.

The owner of the apartment complex, Rockville Housing Enterprise, planned to ask the city for a grant to update the apartment complex, located at 735 Monroe Street. RHE Executive Director Jessica Anderson said that although it may take a year to fully repair the damage inflicted by the fire, plans for making the needed addition is still on track and awaiting approval by the Mayor and City Council.

“Other than inspiring us to speed up our timeline…no,” Anderson said when asked if the Feb. 2 fire had affected the refinancing process, adding that she expects the repairing of fire damage and the refinancing process to go on at the same time.

“The two processes will work in parallel,” she said.

Chris Gossard, a principal at the Hampstead Companies, which will be overseeing the planning for the rehabilitation projection for the Fireside Park Apartments, said the plans have been slightly changed to add more sprinklers at the complex after the fire. 

When Mayor Bridgett Donell Newton asked Gossard about any other potential safety provisions for the rehabilitation project, such as reconsidering the wood interiors, Gossard said changing that would not be cost-effective.

“Obviously it’s all new information, you know, we’ve been just processing it over the last week-and-a-half now,” Gossard said.

The rehabilitation plan for the Fireside Park Apartments would include a kitchen upgrade for all 236 units with new cabinets and countertops. The refinancing plan would also fund upgrades for new washers and dryers in each unit, new hardwood floors, updated waterproofing and stormwater management and upgrades to the building’s façade.

The plan to upgrade the Fireside Apartments is part of a city effort to continue to invest in affordable housing. About half of the units at the Fireside Apartments are affordable housing units; Council member Mark Pierzchala said the city’s potential $500,000 grant could be an investment for affordable housing in the city.

Pierzchala said he supports awarding RHE the grant to modernize the apartments because RHE has paid back loans the city made for the Fireside Park Apartments in the past.

“In my opinion, I think the City should approve your financing plan, I think we should grant the $500,000 grant from the Housing Opportunities Fund because that is what the Housing Opportunities Fund is for,” Pierzchala said.

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