City begins demolition at Watuppa Heights

After years of discussion, demolition finally started Wednesday on Watuppa Heights in Fall River.

The housing project has been the site of thefts, arsons, and numerous other criminal activities over the years.

A small crowd of people gathered to see the demolition ceremony.

Whether they'd lived in Watuppa Heights or had fond childhood memories, residents were all glad to see the dilapidated housing project finally start to crumble.

"It's actually a big eye sore," Alphonse Hathaway said. "It brings down the community pretty much."

"I've been waiting for this for over 15 years," James Almeida said.

First built in the 1950s for veterans returning from World War II, the site is now boarded up with overgrown lawns.

Crews estimate it will take 60 days to clear the buildings of rodents, asbestos and lead paint, then demolish and clear the entire site.

The city hopes to build 50 new units and single family homes for first-time homeowners in its place.

Fall River is in the process of asking developers to submit proposals. The state of Massachusetts estimates a new building project could cost $15 million to $20 million to restore the area to its glory days.

Donna Hollenbach remembers those days.

"Playing all sorts of games like dodge ball or kick the can, stuff like that," she said. "I had a lot of friends here growing up. I had a lot of good times back in the day."

Almeida raised his family here.

"My kids used to play around in the yard here," he said.

Almeida says the bulldozer used on Wednesday tore down his old room but he wasn't upset to see it go.

Neighbors say their happy memories can't erase what the place has become. They said they hope a new plan will restore the area to a source of pride.