Friday, April 04, 2014

TOP STORY >> Senior tower marks 35 years

Leader staff writer

Jacksonville Towers Bingaman Place celebrated its 35th anniversary during a luncheon on Tuesday. The high rise for low-income seniors is fully occupied with 106 residents. It opened on March 31, 1979.

Former Mayor James Reid said the Jacksonville Towers was one of the projects most prized to him as mayor.

The United Auto Workers and Central Arkansas Retiree Council helped make Jacksonville Towers a reality. Reid received $2,500 from an anonymous donor in town, with which the UAW submitted an application for Section 202 federal funding for low-income senior housing.

Kenneth Pat Wilson with First Arkansas Bank and Trust gave a $100,000 letter of credit for the project.

Dec. 30, 1977, was the last day the builder would hold his price for the project. A contract was signed with the Housing and Urban Development, but they had no money to draw.

First Arkansas Bank gave a draw of $294,000 with a commitment from HUD that the money would be there within 20 days.

“After it was completed, it was new and beautiful. Today it’s more beautiful than it was that day. When you drive in from North Little Rock, that’s one of the first things you see is this building. It’s put us on the map,” Reid said.

Mayor Gary Fletcher said Jacksonville Towers is a landmark of the city.

“I wished we had 10 of these. There is a spirit of unity here,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher said he was going to look for land in the city for more senior living because the demand will grow.

Linda Hardway, state HUD director of multiple-family housing, said, “Jacksonville Towers is a beautiful property. It is one of three elderly high rises in the state that we at the HUD office give the test of ‘would you let your mother live there?’ I would say yes,”

Hardway added that federal funding for senior housing has been suffering from cuts by Congress over the past two years. She is hopeful funding will resume.

Steve Protulis, executive director for Elderly Housing Development and Operations Corporation — a nonprofit that manages senior centers — said, “We have a blessed staff, building and people.

“(The UAW members) were willing to doing something for the community when their own seniors don’t qualify to be here; that’s commitment,” Protulis said.

Dorothy Moore, 95, is the longest resident of Jacksonville Towers — 33 years since 1981.

“This is a nice place to live, has been for years. I lived in town when it opened up and knew a lot of people who lived here,” Moore said.

Chamber of Commerce director Amy Mattison said her grandmother lived at Jacksonville Towers. She visited her after school and hung out on the balcony.

She said her grandmother was not from Arkansas, but got along with residents. She taught them how to knit and sew.

Mattison said she was able to interact with her grandma’s friends. The building had a sense of family, she said.

Mattison added that the chamber gets calls daily inquiring about Jacksonville Towers and Worley’s Place, where active seniors live.