Very quietly — metaphorically, anyway — 21st-century housing is rising on the site of a mid-20th-century housing project.
Construction is well underway on 78 housing units on Hales Court. And hardly anyone in town realizes that the area once derided as “Hell’s Court” by a teenager living there — and sneered at by Westporters who couldn’t believe a “housing project” was part of their town, just a mile or so from the beach — is undergoing a major transformation.
The $24 million project — paid for by federal and state funds — will nearly double the original 40 ranch-style detached homes. Those were built in 1950, to provide affordable housing for returning veterans. Over the years, many town employees lived there.
But later, Hales Court became Westport shorthand for “small, substandard housing.” The hastily built homes had little or no insulation, inefficient window air-conditioning, and lots of (current) code violations. After half a century, they’d outlived their usefulness.
Rising in their place — just over the new Hales Road bridge — are handsome 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom units. Designated “moderate housing,” they serve families at or below 60 percent of area median income ($70,680) for a family of 4.
Twenty-five units are reserved for seniors (62 and older), while a 2,000-square foot community center will enhance the neighborhood feel.
Some of the houses are already occupied. Others are still under construction. The banging of nails and clanging of trucks is reminiscent of the postwar building boom, in suburbs across the country.
The new Hales Court homes are closer together than most in Westport. They lack the stonework, gables, cathedral ceilings and and wraparound porches that are de rigueur these days, even in tough economic times.
But there’s a genuine neighborhood growing again here, right off Hillspoint and Green’s Farms Road.
And, from the looks of things, it’s one that will still be handsome — and home — another 50 years from now.