Over the past year the Rockwell Apartments, located just off Trent Avenue near Kaiser Aluminum, have been transformed. The buildings were painted and the pool repaired. A new playground was installed and landscaping was installed.
The result is an affordable-housing apartment complex that is attractive and inviting. Large grassy areas are perfect for playing or lounging in the sun. Children’s bicycles are lined up ready to take advantage of the sidewalks and dead-end Rockwell Street. A resident manager keeps an eye on everything and maintains the property.
Jelili Ogundele, the development services manager at Community Frameworks, has become a familiar face around the complex since the nonprofit purchased the apartments last year. “We wanted to create a sense of community,” he said of the improvements. “The building is just a building. It’s the people that make it a community.”
Residents were able to pick the type of playground equipment they wanted and they were also invited to help plant all the flowers that now bloom colorfully along the buildings. “It was dead,” Ogundele said of the flower beds. “It needed some loving.”
The improvements will be shown off during an open house and dedication of the playground today from 2 to 4 p.m. There will be refreshments and apartment tours. Four of the 28 units are vacant. The rent is $516 for a two-bedroom apartment and residents must meet income guidelines and follow other rules. The rent used to top $600, but it was lowered when it became an affordable-housing complex.
As part of the open house, Community Frameworks is offering move-in specials; new residents can choose between a month’s free rent or a free washer and dryer. “Move-in specials are part of the reality now, given the market,” Ogundele said.
He hopes to show people that affordable housing is not the ill-kept, run down buildings that many people assume. “This place is safe, decent and affordable housing,” he said. “Housing is a basic need. It changes everything.”
The effort to make the complex feel like a community seems to be paying off. Heather Baushke, her husband Jay and their three small children moved in two months ago. Baushke said she used to visit the complex frequently to see her best friend, who now lives only a stone’s throw from her apartment. She said the complex feels like a family. “We have community dinners at least once a week,” she said. “It’s actually been really fun.”
She has also been getting a lot of use from the various amenities. “It’s been a godsend, especially the playground,” she said. “We love it.”
Community Frameworks has no plans to stop making improvements, Ogundele said. The residents have requested a community barbecue and a permanent grill will be installed next year. “It’s a way of saying ‘This is your community. This is your home,’ ” he said.
The Rockwell Apartments are the first for Community Frameworks in Spokane Valley, though the organization is working to build senior affordable housing near Appleway Boulevard and Farr Road. Things have gone so well that they will be on the lookout for other apartment complexes for sale that can be converted to affordable housing. “We hope to do some more,” he said.