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LaGrange discusses Dawson Street School redevelopment

The LaGrange City Council heard in depth Tuesday morning on the potential Dawson Street School redevelopment plan.

Tammy Finley, a developer out of Atlanta, discussed that the goal of the Dawson Street School is to rehabilitate it and convert the former school into needed in-town housing, revitalizing the neighborhood housing market.

Currently, the school is sitting empty with major damage on the structure and interior.

Finley added that it is being used as a squatting hotspot, and there is a large amount of paraphernalia that will need to be removed.

“I’m not proposing multifamily rental; I’m looking at home ownership,” Finley said. “I’m looking very carefully at what your designs are going to be like. I want it to feel like a neighborhood.”

In Phase I of the plan, the school building will be renovated to accommodate approximately 14 townhomes units In Phase II. The proposed plan is to develop a pocket neighborhood of approximately 30 new construction, single-family homes as well as 67 detached multi-story units.

“More things that were discovered, of course, in this process was the importance of walking, compact development, and in-field development,” Finley said.

Finley noted that the redevelopment area is composed of a predominant number of substandard and deteriorated buildings.

The redevelopment is anticipated to cost no less than $2 million. The second phase of developing the single-family homes is anticipated to cost approximately $5 million.

“The nice thing about this site is that it is literally six-tenths of a mile from the downtown square,” Finley said. “You could walk to the brewery, you could walk to the skate park or to the amphitheater. Something needs to be done because it is declining rapidly.”

Finley noted that they did a similar redevelopment in Atlanta and the houses and townhomes sold immediately.

“It’s because people want to be within walking distance of things in the city,” Finley said. “This development will have every price point.”

If the city of LaGrange approves the plan, the property will be transferred to the developer by the city for $10,000. The developer will be required to undertake and complete the renovation of the former school within 36 months of the official transfer date. If not completed within the set timeframe, the developer will be required to pay the city $50,000.

“I feel strongly when you work with a community on something like this, you guys are putting the property and building into the project, but I am going to come here and put money back into the community with this,” Finley said. “It is very important to me, and I feel strongly about this project. We want to do our best to bring back more to the community.”