A three-day hearing started Wednesday in Jackson County Circuit Court over the future of the Parade Park Homes complex near the 18th and Vine Jazz District.
Judge Sandra Midkiff is hearing arguments in a case seeking to replace the board of the housing cooperative. The plaintiffs also seek a temporary restraining order to tentatively halt plans for a $76 million redevelopment of the longtime African-American neighborhood.
Plaintiffs attorney Dana Cutler said the proposed redevelopment plan may be a good one, but there are too many unanswered questions and concerns that the current co-op board is not answering.
“We’re seeking transparency and full answers,” she said.
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Parade Park Homes is a 510-unit affordable housing cooperative located just east of the historic 18th and Vine Jazz District, between Truman Road and 18th Street and between Woodland and Brooklyn avenues.
It is notable as one of the nation’s first African-American housing cooperatives, incorporated in 1963. Residents don’t own individual units but are investors in the cooperative, make collective decisions and can pass units to their children.
Some longtime residents fear that a $76 million proposed redevelopment and modernization for the complex will price them out of their homes.
Testimony on Wednesday morning from Brian Welch, whose company, Welch and Associates, has audited the cooperative since 2009, showed the complex has had audits with material weaknesses and other financial problems over that time.
But Jim Nichols, owner of the development company Dalmark, which took over management of Parade Park Homes in March 2015, argues the complex has significant, costly deferred maintenance issues and new construction is the preferred and more financially practical approach.
Dalmark, which has experience managing and transforming other troubled properties, has proposed replacing the complex with 344 units, including 88 single-story villas to appeal to seniors, plus two- and three-bedroom townhomes, both affordable and market rate.
Co-op board members say the majority of residents support the redevelopment plan. But four longtime residents sued, arguing the board is acting improperly and the loans to accomplish the redevelopment would dramatically increase their costs.
Current monthly charges range from $450 to $700, while the new plan contemplates monthly charges of $625 to more than $1,200 per month.
Advocates for the development say they will work with the city and other agencies to explore ways that current residents can continue to afford to live there.
Occupancy began dropping about 10 years ago and has declined to the point that more than 170 of the 510 units are vacant.
Testimony on Wednesday showed that occupany rates have fallen substantially since 2009, costing the cooperative approximately $5 million over that time period in monthly charges that weren’t collected.