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Decatur City Commission grants exception for 80 senior housing units near Avondale MARTA station

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Decatur City Commission grants exception for 80 senior housing units near Avondale MARTA station

Artist's rendering of the planned Phase II of Columbia Senior Residences at Decatur East. Credit: City of Decatur.
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Decatur, GA — The Decatur City Commission, at its Nov. 15 meeting, approved a developer’s request for a design exception for a proposed 80-unit senior housing development that will be near the Avondale MARTA station.

Affordable housing developer Columbia Residential is partnering with the Decatur Housing Authority to construct Phase II of Columbia Senior Residences at Decatur East at the corner of Freeman and Sams Streets.

Columbia residential completed Phase I in 2018, which was a 92-unit mixed-income senior community. The developers are now working on Phase II of that project, and all units will be for seniors aged 62 and older.

“This is planned to be an 80-unit senior community, with 70 of those units restricted as affordable, and that’s at 50% or 60% of the area median income. In addition, there’s 24 project-based vouchers that will help support lower income residents to reside here,” said Christina Davis, development manager with Columbia Residential.

In May, the City Commission provided Columbia Residential with about $438,000 in grant funds to the tax allocation district to cover the infrastructure costs supporting the affordable housing development. The total project cost is estimated to be over $21 million.

The income limit for an affordable housing program is the maximum amount of income a household can earn to qualify for assistance. A household’s income is calculated by its gross income, which is the total income received before making subtractions for taxes and other deductions. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development published the 2021 Income Limits on April 1, 2021, with the same effective date, according to Invest Atlanta.

These limits include the limits for HUD assisted properties as well as the limits for Housing Credit and Tax-Exempt Bond properties known as the Multifamily Tax Subsidy Properties (MTSP) Income Limits.

Table courtesy of Invest Atlanta.

Davis told the Planning Commission last week that the project will provide high-quality construction and affordable transit-oriented housing in a development that will benefit residents and the general welfare of the city.

However, to accomplish this project, Columbia Residential needed an exception to Decatur’s requirement that all buildings above 50 feet in height in this zoning district must step back the portion of the building above the height limit by 10 feet from the front of the facade.

The developer requested an exception to this requirement and proposed setting back the entire building by 10 feet, rather than stepping back only the portions of the building that are taller than 50 feet. This would additionally give Columbia Residential room to add on-street parking, about an eight-foot sidewalk and some enhance landscaping.

Once constructed, the average height of the building would be 54 feet from ground level, but would be 59 feet at its tallest point. Due to the slope of the land, portions of the building are within the height limit while others exceed the 50-foot limit, Davis said.

“The stepping back of the building is actually a financial hardship for us on the affordable housing side,” Davis said. “It would require some adjustments to the design and construction of this facility. Put simply, it’s very difficult to do that without having the efficiency of stacking units. It would also require us to utilize all of that ground floor space that we are able to have as a zero setback.”

She added that stepping back the portion of the building that’s above 50 feet would require Columbia Residential to redesign some areas and potentially create interior spaces that would be difficult to utilize or make them less functional.

“I think what I really wanted to get across is I do feel that we are able to achieve the intent of the code by setting back the entire building by 10 feet as opposed to going up for stories and then stepping back,” Davis said.

The City Commission unanimously approved the special exception.

“I like the fact that it really activates the street. It makes it more interactive. It doesn’t look like a building just shoved up against the pavement. I think it’s a great addition,” Mayor Pro Tem Tony Powers said. “We constantly want to push that affordable housing number up, and this is a way to get more seniors here and keep more seniors here.”

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