Wesley Places brings new lease on life for neighborhood

Staff Report

A nonprofit agency in Plaquemine celebrated the fulfillment of one of its major goals to help provide affordable housing to local residents.

Ruth Bailey Wesley, wife of the late Rev. Lee T. Wesley (who led the formation of the New Horizons Community Development Corp.) takes a tour of a unit in Wesley Place, an affordable housing development on Baytown Street. She is shown with New Horizons board member Nora Alexander.

An open house hosted Sunday by New Horizons Community Development Corp. marked the dedication of Wesley Place, at the corner of Iron Farm Road and Baytown Street in Dupont Annex Subdivision. The homes are in walking distance of Plymouth Rock Baptist Church and Iberville Elementary School.

Wesley Place consists of two duplexes that will provide low-income housing with modern amenities, and two more will follow for a total of eight units.

The late Rev. Lee T. Wesley led the formation of for the New Horizons Community Development Corp., organized in 2002 to provide affordable housing for residents of the Iron Farm Road area.

“He would be so proud and so full of gratitude right now,” said Ruth Bailey Wesley, wife of Rev. Wesley, as she walked through the house.

“This was his dream, and this is his legacy,” New Horizons board member Nora Alexander said.

Along with Alexander, the all-volunteer board consists of Torris Armstead, Linda Harleaux, Faye Georgetown, Ronald Spradley, Brian Williams, Kimberly Butler, Cheryl Piper, Edward Fredericks, Clarence Banks and Linda Johnson.

Pictured at the open house Sunday for Wesley Place housing development on Baytown Street are, from left: District 4 Plaquemine Selectman Tommy LeBlanc, District 3 Plaquemine Selectman Jimmie Randal, District 5 Plaquemine Shannon Courtade, Rev. Donald Richardson, Linda Johnson, Clotis Johnson, Plaquemine Mayor Ed Reeves, Eunice Trent, Kimberly Butler, Nora Alexander, Torris Armstead, Cheryl Piper, Linda Harleaux, Lora Griffin and Brian Williams.

The affordable housing units topped the priority list for New Horizons since its inception, but the $600,000 it received from Louisiana Housing Corp. got the ball rolling.

New Horizons worked with help from Urban Restoration Enhancement Corp., a Baton Rouge consultant group.

Plymouth Rock Baptist Church donated land for the project.

“We worked a long time on this project, but it’s all been very worthwhile,” board member Linda Johnson said. “Our goal is to revitalize this part of the city.”

Each 1,375-square-foot unit consists of three bedrooms and two baths, along with a living room, dining area and spacious kitchen that includes a stove and microwave. It also includes a walk-in laundry room, large bedroom closets and porch areas in the front and back of the units.

The units also include real wood cabinets, wood tile flooring, ceiling fans and recessed lighting.

Mayor Ed Reeves attended the dedication along with Selectmen Jimmie Randle of District 3, Tommy LeBlanc of District 4 and Shannon Courtade of District 5.

The development marks a huge step toward revitalization of the area, said Randle, whose council district includes Dupont Annex.

“This has been a long time coming, and this is a major step toward revitalization,” he said. “This is a very important day for this area.”

Prospective tenants will undergo a screening as part of the approval process. The Iberville Parish Sheriff’s Office and the City of Plaquemine will assist with the background check.

Clotis Johnson, who also worked with the committee, grew up in the neighborhood.

Wesley Place serves as a new lease on life for the area, he said.

“This was our neighborhood, and we’ve seen both the bad and the good,” Johnson said. “We want to leave it better for the next generation.”

Bryan Williams of William Allen Contractors LLC said the project has held a special meaning to him.

“It’s all about the quality of life,” he said. “I was born in raised in this neighborhood, I attended church at Plymouth Rock, and I went to Iberville Elementary, and having a school and church in walking distance makes for a good quality of life.

“We worked very hard on this project, and it brings so much potential to this area,” Williams said. “It’s nice to see the end project after all of this hard work.”

For board member Kimberly Butler, the finished product still seemed hard to belief.

“It took so long that I started to wonder if it would ever come to fruition, but everyone kept working at it and look where we are now,” she said. “It took a lot of people who were willing step up and work hard to make this happen – and I hope that kind of effort will be contagious in this community.”

Board member Cheryl Piper said the project represents what should be the goal for every generation.

“We’re just trying to make the world a better place that it was when we found it,” she said.

The program also includes weatherization grants for other homes in the neighborhood. The weatherization grants allow for energy-efficient upgrades to the homes.