Alton Pointe is fresh departure from old public-housing complex

Alton Pointe Apartments opened several months ago on the former site of Sullivan Homes, a 1950s-era public housing complex that was decried in its latter years by police, community leaders and residents alike. Sullivan Homes was razed in early 2005.

The new development in Alton has drawn rave reviews from residents and community leaders. It looks like a neighborhood of tidy two-story houses, nothing like the run-down, crime- and drug-plagued public housing complex it replaced.

Developed by Gundaker Commercial Group of Chesterfield in cooperation with the Madison County Housing Authority, Alton Pointe is a collection of 28 triplex structures, each having two apartments and one townhouse.

Gundaker officials expected the development to be attractive, but the results exceeded expectations, said Greg Lee, a senior vice president with the company.

"It’s kind of majestic," he said.

Andrew Koenig of Rosemann & Associates in St. Louis was the project architect.

"We like to do affordable housing because we’re serving a demographic that needs great housing but doesn’t have much of it," he said.

Koenig said Alton Pointe was the firm’s first apartment project reflecting the "big-house" design trend.

Thirty-eight of Alton Pointe’s 84 units are designated for low-income tenants with the rest renting at market rates. The development also includes a clubhouse with management offices, computer and community rooms and a playground.

The $12.4 million project was financed with a combination of loans from the Illinois Housing Development Authority and about $9.4 million in tax credit equity. Gundaker will lease the 8.92-acre site from the county housing authority for 99 years and will maintain and manage it for at least 15 years.

John Hamm, the housing authority’s executive director, said Alton Pointed was a dramatic improvement for its residents and the larger community free credit report and score.

"It has worked out great" he said.

James Gray, president of the Alton Branch of the NAACP and a commissioner of the housing authority, called it "the best thing to happen in Alton for a long time."

He said the authority had replaced a "hellhole" with attractive, quality housing.

Mayor Don Sandidge said: "I think they’re great. Compared to what was there, what a difference!"

Sandidge said he thought the development would stimulate improvements in the surrounding neighborhood, which has been in decline, and said the city planned to repair and upgrade streets in the area.

Shannon Davidson, 34, was among the first residents of Alton Pointe, moving there in April after two years in a nursing home. She said she had heard about how bad the old project was.

"It’s definitely not like that now," she said. "It’s a wonderful area. The people are great."

Lee said Gundaker wants to keep it that way. He said the company conducts criminal and credit checks of prospective residents and talks to their employers and former landlords.

Lee said the company hopes to replicate the triplex concept in other communities and is in "quiet discussions" with other municipalities in Illinois and Missouri.

The county housing authority is also replacing another old public-housing project, Lee Wright Homes in Venice, with new, affordable housing.

The planned 78-unit development, Meachum Crossing, will be owned by a private entity called Meachum Crossing Limited Partnership and managed by the authority.

Completion is expected next year.

thillig@post-dispatch.com | 618-624-2526

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