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First phase of makeover complete at Cumberland Gardens in Allentown

By Bo Koltnow, Reporter, BKoltnow@wfmz.com
Published On: Oct 23 2012 04:34:45 PM CDT

One of Allentown's oldest public housing complexes isn't looking so old anymore.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. -

One of Allentown's oldest public housing complexes isn't looking so old anymore. Sixty apartments at Cumberland Gardens have received a multi-million dollar makeover.

"Much larger, added a dish washer. For us, it's an amenity we thought would have in place like this," said Justin Styer, a father of four.

"New interiors, new exteriors, new appearance," said Dan Ferrell, head of the Allentown Housing Authority.

In a cold drizzle, local leaders went to the low-income housing unit off Susquehanna Street to celebrate Tuesday morning.

Some $15 million was spent to renovate 60 units, turning drab, outdated apartments, into eye-catching, modern homes.

Ferrell pointed to increased green space and added lighting and windows as part of the exterior strategy to reduce neighborhood crime.

Fourteen units were completed in 2011, and if you ask Styer, the strategy is already working.

"So much better. Don't feel lower class. I see more willing to take care of the neighborhood themselves. A huge change in everyone," Styer said.

Huge changes have already come to other low-income neighborhoods..

Allentown's Overlook Park, which transformed the troubled Hanover Acres, and Easton's Neston Heights, formerly Delaware Terrace, are both believed to be huge success stories.

"This kind of investment, not just good for quality of life for families, but also for self-esteem and how feel about themselves," said Alan Jennings, a community activist.

"Everything is so much better, the windows. It's nice to come home," Styer said.

Depending on funding, the second phase could start this time next year. That would transform 70 apartments. Phase 3 will take take care of the remaining 56 units.