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Plans introduced to renovate, raze ‘the bricks’

Housing authority aims to begin work in August

By Tyler H. Jones

tjones@civitasmedia.com

City elected officials and community leaders meet Tuesday at the THINC College and Career Academy for a work session. During the meeting, Council heard about plans from the LaGrange Housing Authority to renovate and raze the city’s public housing.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/web1_CityCouncil01.jpgCity elected officials and community leaders meet Tuesday at the THINC College and Career Academy for a work session. During the meeting, Council heard about plans from the LaGrange Housing Authority to renovate and raze the city’s public housing. Tyler H. Jones| Daily News
An artist’s rendering shows the proposed redevelopment of the Ben Hill apartment homes on Whitesville Road. Planners expect that project to begin in 2017.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/web1_Rendering01.jpgAn artist’s rendering shows the proposed redevelopment of the Ben Hill apartment homes on Whitesville Road. Planners expect that project to begin in 2017. Contributed

LaGRANGE — Plans to renovate and raze the Ben Hill and Lucy Morgan public housing complexes were presented to City Council during a work session Tuesday at the THINC College and Career Academy.

The LaGrange Housing Authority, which manages the properties, is partnering with Vantage Development to renovate the 182 apartments at the Lucy Morgan complex on Borton Street and rebuild 238 at the Ben Hill homes on Whitesville Road.

“One of the things we get asked all the time is, ‘When are you going to move some dirt?’” Zsa Zsa Heard, the authority’s director, told City Council before giving an update.

The multiphase plan calls for renovation of the Lucy Morgan homes to begin in August, according to Paul Robinson of Vantage Development. The first phase is slated to include the rehab of 85 Lucy Morgan apartments, paid for using low-income housing tax credits, tax-exempt bonds and other funds, both in the form of grants and existing housing authority capital. The plan calls for air conditioning overhauls, replacement of floor and interior finishes, appliance upgrades and sewer maintenance. The total estimated cost for phase one is about $12 million, according to Robinson’s presentation.

Phase two of Lucy Morgan will rehab an additional 89 units, performing the same upgrades as phase one, also at a cost of $12 million and financed through the same mechanisms. Phase two is expected to begin in late October or early November.

The Ben Hill Homes, which were built in the 1950s, will see the most significant facelift, according to the plan. The proposal calls for building 70 new housing units on an 11-acre vacant strip of land owned by the housing authority on Whitesville Road across from Mobile Home Drive. The new units would house low-income seniors 55 and older. Once built, tenants would move in and about 15 of Ben Hill’s existing apartment buildings that face Whitesville Road would be torn town.

A large park, lined with trees and landscaped, would replace the 15 buildings and face Whitesville Road. The new homes would also be financed using the low-income housing tax credits, existing housing authority capital and grant contributions. The housing authority is asking City Council for about $600,000 for the construction of the park. The cost of developing the new housing and park is estimated to be about $11 million, the presentation stated. Under the plan, construction at Ben Hill homes would begin in April 2017.

The plan depends on approval from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, which doles out the low-income tax credits. A decision by DCA is expected to come in December, according to the presentation.

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Click here to download the complete plan to renovate and raze the city’s public housing complexes.

Tyler H. Jones is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2155.