Jeremy Ratliff
Reporter

Last week, Merrill Area Housing Authority (MAHA) Executive Director Paul Russell announced the commencement of the new Stonebridge Housing complex project, to be located across the street from Park Place on West Main Street. The project will be the first of a two phase effort by MAHA to address a long standing need for additional housing in the community as well as updating current housing units at the Westgate Apartment complex on the city’s west side, and the Park Place building on Grand Avenue.
As Russell explains, the name “Stonebridge” comes as a result of a recent naming contest amongst MAHA residents. During the contest, residents submitted their ideas for a name for the new complex and the ceremony concluded on June 30; in the wake of over 200 entries.
Retired educator Nancy Muchinske was the winner, suggesting the building be named after the nearby 113-year-old, three-arch stone bridge.

Russell indicated construction of the new three-level, 38-unit Stonebridge Apartment complex is expected to begin next month with an estimated completion time frame of spring 2018. Stonebridge Apartment units will feature a range of amenities including handicap accessibility, central air, access to cable TV and internet. Upper units will include decks and lower units will include outdoor patios. The complex will also feature a community cafeteria, beauty salon and fitness center.
Then next summer, phase-two of the MAHA renovation project will begin with the renovation of units at Westgate and a complete interior remodel and updating of Park Place.
The Park Place project will consist of each units being expanded by 50% of their current size; resulting in 54 new apartment units by the Spring of 2019.
“This is the most complex project I have ever had to plan and organize in my career,” Russell said. “It is multi-dimensional in the sense that there is a conversion from public housing to Section 8 housing platform, which is administrative in nature. In addition there will be a new construction phase, a rehabilitation phase and renovation phase to existing buildings.
“Park Place and Westgate have served hundreds of Merrill residents over the past 47 years. These affordable housing units for families, elderly and disabled members of our community, is a necessary component to the overall housing stock in the city. When this project concludes in 2019, it will address a need in the community for another 50 years.”
Russell emphasizes the project’s result will not reflect any growth or increase in the number of housing units MAHA currently oversees. MAHA currently manages 102 units (10 at Westgate and 92 at park place). The Park Place project will not include any additional rooms, but rather remodeling and expanding current units in the facility.
The $15.1 million project will be funded by both Federal Tax Credits, equity from a private investor and MAHA. Additional funding will be provided by a Federal Home Loan Grant and fund raising from the Federal department of Urban Development, ultimately resulting in the project moving forward at zero cost to city or county tax payers.