'A different world': Fayetteville's oldest public housing complex reopens under a new name
In the two years he lived there, Calvin Williams remembers Grove View Terrace's neglected grounds and the trash speckling the property.
He remembers the heavy rains and the ground being so low that water would seep through the back door of his one-bedroom apartment off Grove Street. Sometimes the water would come through the front. The water bugs would come in with it.
He remembers the people who didn't live there who came in to commit crimes. He remembers leaving his apartment one day to find four slashed tires on his car right before he had to go to work.
When the announcement was made that the Fayetteville Metropolitan Housing Authority's oldest complex would be torn down and built back into something bigger, something better, Williams said residents welcomed it.
All 212 of the 1940s-era units were torn down in 2018, and 272 brand new units popped up in their place.
"It was a joy for all of us ... who was trying to do something to better our lives," Williams said.
After two years in other accommodations, Williams returned to Grove Street in May when the first half of the apartments opened up for rent. The rest opened in October.
When he stepped onto the grounds of what's now called Cross Creek Pointe, Williams said he thought he was in heaven.
After an almost eight-year process of planning, applying for funding, demolition, and construction, Fayetteville Metropolitan Housing Authority and United Management opened Cross Creek Pointe in October. United will run the property for the next 18 months before the housing authority takes it over, Dawn Weeks, the housing authority's executive director, said. The project's price tag hovers at around $40 million, Weeks said.
On the 30-acre site of the former Grove View Terrace, the new apartments are now three stories instead of two. Central air conditioning, absent before, is included, and so are the once-elusive laundry hookups.
But mostly, Cross Creek Pointe comes with a new beginning.
The complex's history
The Grove View Terrace revitalization project has been a focus for the Fayetteville Metropolitan Housing Authority since 2013 or 2014, Weeks said.
In the 1940s it was home to white military families before the housing authority picked up the front six buildings for public housing, Weeks said. It was expanded around eight to 10 years later to 212 units.
While durable, Weeks said, the units couldn't be repaired easily. There was no sheetrock and all the buildings were made of either cinderblocks or plaster.
Then came its reputation.
Weeks said she's always felt a sense of responsibility to make Grove View Terrace better.
Over her 31 years working with the housing authority, she's seen it all at Grove View. Some things, she said, she'd like to forget, others she doesn't think she ever will.
Grove View Terrace was widely known as a crime hotspot throughout the '90s. It wasn't the tenants who were causing most of the problems, Weeks said, but the people coming in from the outside. Dealers used to come to Grove View from miles away just to sell their drugs, she said.
In response to the area's crime, Weeks called the Fayetteville Police Department. To this day, officers work shifts for the housing authority and get to know tenants to help prevent any issues from popping up, Weeks said.
"You cannot go to work and be productive and do anything if you've gotta worry about being killed overnight," Weeks said. "I don't care who it is or where they live or anything else, but that's no way to live."
The shift away from Grove View Terrace started even before tenants were relocated so demolition could start. After Hurricane Matthew blew through and caused problems for some of the buildings, Weeks relocated the residents who lived in them. In other instances, plumbing would blow through the walls. Soon boards would appear on the vacant buildings' windows.
There was no point in fixing them if they were being torn down anyway, Weeks said.
When it was time to start relocating residents from Grove View Terrace to other properties so they could raze the site, crime had gone down. Weeks said around 119 families lived there by that time.
Part of the reason revitalizing the property took so long to take place was funding, Weeks said. To revitalize Grove View Terrace, the housing authority needed to apply for funding through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The other part was ongoing projects. Before Grove View Terrace could get any attention , another series of affordable public housing needed to be completed first, Weeks said.
United Management hopped on to help with Grove View Terrace, and demolition on the site began in May 2018, Weeks said.
Getting the residents back
A criticism of some housing authorities by federal overseers, Weeks said, is that when families are relocated for improvements, the housing authority loses track of who's supposed to move back.
Under Weeks, that wasn't going to happen.
Housing authority staff kept track of former Grove View Terrace residents, Weeks said. They contacted people to ask if they wanted to return once construction was complete on the new units. Weeks said the staff tried to ensure everybody got to be where they wanted to be.
When FMHA started relocating residents from Grove View Terrace, Weeks said, they had the option to go wherever they wanted. Some chose to move into another housing complex within the housing authority. Others took vouchers to move out of state. Weeks said that with the vouchers, residents could go anywhere they wanted across the country. Everyone who relocated was given money as well to help cover costs associated with deposits and moving, Weeks said.
And when the time came to move residents into Cross Creek Pointe, Weeks said, FMHA made sure former residents got help with moving, too. Shannon Pow, chief financial and operations officer for United Management, said Grove View Terrace residents were given first dibs to come back and were exempted from background and credit checks.
Pow said United Management paid for an advertisement in the newspaper for 10 days in fall 2019 to let everyone know more housing was coming.
Over 1,000 applications rolled in from as far away as New York and Florida, and United had to shut down the advertisement early.
Misty Rose, United Management's director of operations, said they've only opened up the application one more time since, and even then it had to be closed quickly. After all, there were only 272 spots available.
Weeks thinks the rush of applications could've been due to how nice the site is. On top of that, she said, there's the area's housing shortage.
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Weeks said 33 former Grove View Terrace residents chose to return to the now-Cross Creek Pointe. Others who were asked to come back were happy where they were, she said.
The name for the new units, Cross Creek Pointe, fits, as Cross Creek flows nearby. But more so, the new title was about ridding the property of its reputation, a tough feat, Weeks said.
She said it's a "different world" now. Based on the renderings in her office, Weeks said, the vision of what could be done with the property matches what ended up happening.
Pow, who grew up in Fayetteville, said the new complex is just as pretty or prettier than the original plan.
"It warms my heart," Pow said. "Having been here and having grown up here, and to see what it is now - I mean, it's a beautiful property."
Pow said it's just as nice as any of the higher-priced apartments United Management handles.
The best feeling Pow gets is when she walks from her office at Cross Creek Pointe to her car and sees the children playing outside. She said she often reminds the staff it's a good sign to see skateboards and balls left in the road.
Weeks is happy to see residents proud of the place they live. In the past, she's had a woman come to her saying she couldn't put her Grove View Terrace address on a job applicationfor fear the employer would think she was a problem. To keep it from going back to the way it was, the key is going to be good management, she said.
"There's some wonderful people there, have always been," Weeks said. "And it was home to them. Regardless of where it was, it's home."
Apartments now are about 1,200 square feet and two or three bedrooms. They come equipped with ceiling fans, updated kitchens and balconies. Outside, are playgrounds and grilling stations.
Williams said all the amenities in his two-bedroom apartment are welcomed, especially for a man who didn't have them before.
"It's living like you would want to live," he said.