NORFOLK, Va. - A massive redevelopment took another step on Monday as construction equipment began demolishing a six-unit public housing building in Norfolk's Tidewater Gardens neighborhood.
It's the first building taken down in the multi-million dollar St. Paul's Area Transformation; a plan to tear down three public housing neighborhoods around Downtown Norfolk and replace them with mixed-income housing.
According to city housing officials, Tidewater Gardens, Young Terrace and Calvert Square are areas with high crime and poverty rates and the aging structures are no longer suitable to house low-income families.
"I can’t really explain it, but it’s kind of a sad moment, but also I think something that will benefit in the long run," said Reginald Clary, who tells News 3 he's lived in Tidewater Gardens nearly 16 years.
Clary came out to capture the early moments of Monday's demolition, which the Norfolk Redevelopment and Housing Authority says will make room for a Pump Station helping to support new development in the area.
Those who lived in the six-unit structure were moved to public housing of their choice, the city says, with the help of an organization called People First.
The NRHA tells News 3 the organization is also working with other residents of Tidewater Gardens to help them find a new place to live and possibly even return once the new housing is built.
Options include moving to another public housing community in Norfolk or receiving Housing Choice vouchers
Norfolk received a $30 million grant to aid in its redevelopment effort, an effort that hasn't been without scrutiny and criticism.
In January, a group filed a federal lawsuit over concerns the plan unfairly targeted poor, black families, alleging it didn't do enough to look out for the future of the people who live in the targeted neighborhoods.
However, the plan has since moved forward and Clary says he's working on figuring out his future.
"I wish I could’ve been remodeled instead of demolished," he said. "My developers out here, they are trying. They’re trying to help people relocate."
The NRHA says residents should continue to work with People First specialists to learn more about relocation and project impacts.