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Homes for post-9/11 veterans in Gentilly nearing construction

Homes for post-9/11 veterans in Gentilly nearing construction

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An Iraq war veteran’s years-long effort to build a community in New Orleans for post-9/11 veterans who need lifelong rehabilitation is on the verge of construction in Gentilly.

Dylan Tête, a West Point graduate and veterans advocate in New Orleans for the last decade, is executive director of the nonprofit Bastion, which is developing the project in partnership with local real estate firm Renaissance Property Group. The $15.9 million subdivision of duplexes on Mirabeau Avenue would focus on bringing together veterans and their families with older residents committed to helping out their veteran neighbors.

“When the veteran comes home, everyone feels the battle fatigue and the post-traumatic stress,” Tête said.

On Tuesday (Jan. 12), Tête and his partners presented the Bastion to the New Orleans Industrial Development Board in hopes of receiving a property tax break, one of the incentives the board doles out to new developments. The Bastion group said it’s the final piece in their financing plan, which includes low income housing tax credits, federal funds and private investment.

The board listened to the presentation, but no specific proposal was on the table. A detailed plan is expected to be voted on by the board in March.

The 5.5-acre site at 1917 Mirabeau Ave. was once home to an apartment complex, but the buildings were damaged in the 2005 London Avenue canal breach and were torn down five years ago. The city block is now green space lined with live oak trees, which developers say they plan to incorporate and build around.

The subdivision will offer 78 apartments — including one, two and three bedroom — in duplexes. In all, 70 percent of the apartments will be dedicated to affordable housing and 30 percent will rent at market rates.

The project builds on the new, $1 billion Veterans Affairs hospital nearby in Mid-City, which is scheduled to accept its first patients by the end of the year.

Amber Seely-Marks, development director for Renaissance Property Group, said the duplexes will be built in two phases starting as soon as March, and the first units will be available in the middle of this year. Bastion as a whole should be finished by mid-2017. “The time is right,” Seely-Marks said. “It’s ready to go.”

Tête told the board the project is different from other veterans projects for a few reasons. It dedicates half of the housing units to veterans with combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, who now face a lifetime of physical and mental rehabilitation, such as traumatic brain injuries.

The other half will be open to residents ages 55 and older willing to dedicate six hours each week to supporting their veteran neighbors — anything from helping kids with homework to driving a vet to a doctor’s appointment — a reciprocal connecting of generations.

“We are really leveraging human capital in the form of older residents,” Tête said.

Read more about Bastion here.

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