By Sara Belsole
COLUMBUS, GA - Just over a month ago, the Columbus Housing Authority abruptly abandoned its plans to invest in the city's Liberty District and renovate the Booker T. Washington apartments.
But today, the Housing Authority is back on track with a new plan.
"We think it will work just as well for our residents and we are very pleased. Our mission is housing and it is for the residents," Housing Authority Director Len Williams says.
Although this new plan won't bring more than $30 million in economic development to the Liberty District, it will still completely renovate the BTW site.
The whole site will be leveled, with commercial developments on the south half and 100 new units on the north half.
But before any of that happens, phase one will start at the old Chapman Homes. That site will be renovated into a 100-unit senior facility for those 55 and older.
"We found out we have 101 residents who would be eligible so with 100 units, it turned out to be perfect," Williams says.
"It really is a great plan and especially for the Chapman Homes, it fills a void that was already needed and it was laying there waiting to be fulfilled," Senator Ed Harbison says.
There are almost 400 tenants living at Booker T. Washington and only 200 spots at both new sites. Those who don't get spots will receive housing vouchers for the private market.
"This is never a controversy because they love having the choice of the housing vouchers," Williams says.
Housing Authority Director Len Williams says when he announced this new plan to BTW residents, there were cheers instead of tears.
The $36 million project will be mostly funded by tax credits and mortgages, with the Housing Authority paying $7.7 million and the city chipping in $2.5 million.
If all goes according to plan, construction should begin on phase one in the fall of 2014.
There will be a stakeholder meeting for the project Friday at 5:30 p.m. at BTW. The project will be formally proposed to city council on May 28th.
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