Renovations hope to improve crime-ridden Independence apartment complex

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INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — A major overhaul is about to get underway at a metro apartment complex.

Hawthorne Place in Independence has, at times, been a thorn in the community with strings of shootings. But the renovations are the latest piece of a concerted effort to transform the property.

This apartment complex is practically a small city with more than 2,000 residents. After a series of deadly shootings in recent years, some major changes were made to security. At the same time, the ownership has been ramping up some pretty unique efforts to dramatically improve the lives of residents and the community. 

Hawthorne Place is a sprawling apartment community, sitting on 70 acres and home to 2,200 residents with nearly half of them, children. 

Getting a townhome at the property was a godsend to single mom Beth Domanski. 

“Hawthorne is a great place for people trying to get back on their feet and that’s what they did. They gave me all kinds of resources to help keep my family going,” Domanski said.

 But she said a run of crime and violence at the complex two years ago was unnerving. 

“There was a time when everybody was real concerned about things that were going on but little but little by little we’re seeing one step forward, one step forward,” Domanski said.

Hawthorne Place is operated by nonprofit POAH, Preservation of Affordable Housing. The group beefed up security with two independence Police officers stationed to patrol the property, and it’s been growing outreach programs designed to help residents build better lives. 

“We are not only providing nice bricks and mortar, and a place to live, but also the ability to impact their lives economically is something that is key to the success of places like Hawthorne,” said Kevin Baptista, vice president of asset management with POAH.

Thanks to tax credits and public-private partnerships, POAH is now starting a massive $30 million overhaul of Hawthorne Place.  Every unit will get a facelift, inside and out.   Play areas, parking lots and sidewalks, will be improved. Thirteen ADA compliant units will be created, along with 15 units for the sensory disabled.

And critically, grant dollars will also help add new community space to support expanded financial education and a “trauma informed” pilot program, helping residents address a wide range of issues head-on. 

“We’re very committed to housing being the foundation to be an important starting place in people having success in the other areas of their life,” said Dena Xifaras, senior vice president with Preservation of Affordable Housing.

 Construction at Hawthorne will begin next week, on June 1. The renovations are expected to be finished by the end of 2022.

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