Townhomes have opened doors for many

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 15, 2002

The Pickerel Lake Townhomes affordable housing project in Albert Lea has meant a lot to local families both young and old.

Many families with children now call the complex their home &045; among them many single-parent families. For some the apartments at Pickerel Park were the only decent affordable housing they could find. One couple, Wally and Tootie Lunning, wouldn’t have been able to move back to the community from Kansas City if it hadn’t been here.

The Lunnings, who are both retired, are renting a unit that is handicapped-accessible, with everything designed to make living more comfortable for people who have difficulty getting around. Relatives in the area who knew they wanted to move back managed to get their names on the list of prospective tenants.

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&uot;Having this apartment here at this price allowed us to move back to the area,&uot; Wally Lunning said. &uot;And we love it here.&uot;

They enjoy living around so many young families around &045; especially the children, whom they watch playing around the buildings.

Attitudes towards the project have changed from when it was first announced, said Albert Lea Mayor Bob Haukoos. From initial resistance he has seen people’s opinions become more positive, as the property has surpassed their expectations.

&uot;The people I’ve talked to are really glad it’s here,&uot; Haukoos said.

The quality of the Pickerel Park Townhomes is not just a local secret. The project received national recognition Tuesday, with an award from the Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition.

The award &045; called the Charles L. Edson Tax Credit Excellence Award

&045; recognizes the Albert Lea affordable housing project for general excellence in the rural category.

According to Ruth Domack, president of Heartland Properties, the support project developers were able to build throughout the community over the time the project was in development was cited as an important point in awarding the prize to Pickerel Park, Heartland Properties, and Newbury Development, the project’s developer.

A display at the awards ceremony recognized the contributions to the project made locally by the City of Albert Lea and Greater Jobs, Inc., as well as support from statewide agencies, including the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, Greater Minnesota Housing Fund, and Wells Fargo bank.

The award carries a $5,000 grant to be used for property enhancements at the Pickerel Park site. The award was presented to representatives of Newbury and Pickerel Park in Washington, D.C. Tuesday morning.

The Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition is a national non-profit organization that promotes high ethical and business standards among institutions involved with the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program.