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Comfort Villas brings new life to Midtown street

Updated: May 14, 2013 6:13AM



GARY — The leis added to the outdoor festive theme, but unfortunately the 40-degree temperatures didn’t cooperate as CRWorks Inc. broke ground Friday on a new eight-unit $3 million affordable housing project in Midtown.

Attendees tried to stay warm under a big white tent while the aroma of barbecued chicken curled around them from a nearby smoker.

Construction workers will soon replace the party atmosphere with heavy machinery to make way for the first phase — an eight-unit, two-story, 10,000-square-foot apartment complex that should be completed in about five months.

CRWorks, a state-certified community housing development organization, has been planning the project since 2009 with assistance from the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, the city’s Department of Commerce and Community Development department.

The development will spice up the desolate 2100 block of Jefferson Street that’s dotted with vacant homes and memories of a brighter past, as remembered by Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.

“As I look up and down this block, this was once a vibrant community,” she said. “We are going to return to that status again.”

After rejections in 2010 and 2011, CRWorks finally kick-started its project with a $900,000 forgivable federal loan to help with construction costs.

CRWorks executive director Sandra Dafiaghor said Comfort Villas will create affordable housing for low-to-moderate income families. It will also offer wraparound support services of employment, job training, education and life skills.

The county donated two parcels to CRWorks for the project in 2012.

Dafiaghor said Comfort Villas’ second phase on the east side of Jefferson will get underway as CRWorks receives financing.

Department of Commerce Director Forest Hayes said Comfort Villas’ general contractor, Burling Builders Inc. of Chicago, plans to hire Gary workers and subcontractors.

John Girzadas, BBI executive vice president, said the company plans to open a Gary office this summer



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