Years of effort went into development of Hisle Park Apartments

Ian Hillman, Staff Reporter

Development of a project like the Hisle Park Apartments, a complex designed for young people aging out of foster care and scheduled to open in December at 2237 Thomas Avenue in Portsmouth, takes the time and energy of many individuals and organizations committed to seeing it become a reality. The Chronicle recently interviewed Portsmouth Municipal Housing Authority (PMHA) representatives Peggy Rice (executive director) and Greg Sparks (director of planning and development) to learn more about the development process and the resources that will be available to residents.

All projects pursued by the PMHA start with planning — gathering all the information needed for resources, looking for funding sources and putting it all on paper. “Keep in mind this is strictly an idea at this point,” Rice said.

Planning for Hisle Park Apartments began in 2017. After gathering necessary data to support the project, PMHA representatives needed to seek out the money to support construction. Multiple counties and cities “fight” for state funding all year for the projects they feel will help their community.

“Thankfully the state had foster care children as a priority that year,” Rice said, so the PMHA was able to close on financing for the $11-million project in September 2020.

Sparks has been working for the PMHA for more than 32 years and in 2019 was promoted to his current position. At the planning stage of this project, his responsibilities included understanding what construction materials and equipment would be needed as well as figuring out the scope of work necessary to accomplish the project. With his new position, his responsibilities are managing the site and ensuring construction standards are met. Sparks is in constant contact with the site manager and “always has an eye on the site,” he said.

Residents of the Hisle Park Apartments will benefit from the PMHA’s collaborations with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Shawnee Mental Health to offer multiple opportunities for the young adults who will be moving in. HUD’s contributions will focus on educational resources related to:

  • Taking consistent care of a home
  • Cleaning and laundry
  • Financial stability classes
  • Parenting classes for those who have children of their own
  • Anything individuals might learn at home

Shawnee Mental Health will be focusing on the social aspects:

  • Integration into a chosen life out of their foster parents’ home
  • Helping the young adults find a profession they are passionate about
  • Helping those who want to finish high school or go to university or trade schools
  • Therapy for occupants

This project is very personal to both Rice and Sparks. Both plan on volunteering at the apartments after the project is completed and doing “anything we can to help,” Rice said. Sparks ended his interview by saying: “This project means a lot to me; it touches home for me,” and he hopes that everyone involved takes full advantage of this great opportunity.