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Decatur Housing Authority presents 132-unit South Housing Village design

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Decatur Housing Authority presents 132-unit South Housing Village design

Legacy Park on S. Columbia Drive in the city of Decatur on August 12, 2020. The park occupies the former site of the United Methodist Children’s Home. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Decatur, GA — The South Housing Village at Legacy Park will feature 132 units made up of apartments, stacked flats and duplexes at the corner of South Columbia Drive and Katie Kerr Drive. The site of the development is about seven acres.

At the Nov. 15, 2021, city commission meeting, the board approved an intergovernmental agreement with the Decatur Housing Authority. The DHA will serve as the developer of the South Housing Village at Legacy Park.

DHA Executive Director Doug Faust and the development team presented the design to the city commission on Monday, April 4. The board will discuss the design further and consider approving the plan at the April 18 city commission meeting.

“We do look at this as a community,” Faust said. “This is not a project. This is not public housing. This is a community of families.”

All units will be affordable housing for a range of incomes from 30-80% of the area median income.

Faust told Decaturish that DHA will assist 40 of the units with housing assistance in phase one of the development. The rent would be equal to 30% of the renter’s adjusted income, and they can be of differing incomes, up to 80% of AMI. Eighty percent of the area median income is $60,000, Faust said.

Some units will have a rent based on tax credits, which will be a set number.

“Tax credit rents are preset numbers that come out of a table,” Faust said at the city commission meeting. “It’s based on the Census, it’s based on income levels of families.”

For example, rent could be about $1,100 for a two-bedroom unit, which is less than what rents are in Decatur. Rents average about $1,800 to $2,000 in the city, Faust said.

There are currently four duplexes on the site, which will be replaced with the new housing.

The design includes four apartment buildings, each with a mix of one-bedroom and two-bedroom units. Three of the buildings have 24 units and the fourth will have 30 units. The apartments will be three stories tall, although the master plan had called for the apartments to be four stories.

“We can actually get the density we need with three stories, so we reduced the scale a little bit, which we think is a very positive thing,” said David Hamilton, the architect from Praxis3 working on the project.

The plan calls for four stacked flats, each with six three-bedroom units, as well as three duplexes, each with two two-bedroom units. The stacked flats will also be three stories and the duplexes will be two stories.

Community spaces will be featured in the plan, too. Amenities will include a community center, a shared outdoor recreation space, community gardens, an entry plaza, a grilling pavilion and several covered pavilions.

“The goal here was to take the original Legacy Park housing master plan, really turn it into a place that felt like a neighborhood or a community,” Hamilton said. “The common space is very, very important to that.”

A drawing from the proposed Housing Addendum to the Legacy Park Master Plan shows what types of buildings and amenities could go in the South Village near the intersection of Katie Kerr and South Columbia Drive. Buildings depicted in gray are existing buildings that would be renovated. Buildings in white would be new construction. Credit: City of Decatur.

Hamilton said the site plan is derived from the Legacy Park master plan.

“[It has a] mix of building styles and an organic neighborhood layout. None of the buildings are closer than about 30 feet a part. We included a large tree save area along Columbia Drive,” Hamilton said. “It will include a clubhouse, picnic pavilion, centrally-located greenspace, community garden, as well as some other elements…”

A community center on the site will feature a meeting room, a business center, shared laundry facilities, a craft room and a back porch, and the property management office. Each unit will have laundry hookups, but the laundry facilities will be available for those who choose not to get a washer and dryer.

Hamilton said the state Department of Community Affairs requires that the units have hookups and the site have a shared laundry facility.

The design includes about one parking space for every unit, which is a little more than what’s in the master plan. There would be 126 spaces in the parking lot and 20 on-street parking spaces.

“We thought that this would be necessary to meet the goals of the Housing Authority and also to make sure that residents weren’t parking around on adjacent neighborhood streets,” Hamilton said. “We felt this was a pretty good compromise to settle on one space per unit.”

Katie Kerr Drive is scheduled to be realigned with Kirk Road, but that will not be part of the South Housing Village project. Hamilton said the development team has accommodated for that within the project design. The realignment will create a small greenspace that’s about 0.75 acres, Legacy Park Director of Programs Madeleine Henner said during an open house on Feb. 28 for the project. The city nor the development team currently have plans for that greenspace.

A board at the South Housing Village open house at Legacy Park shows the layout of the initial design and the phasing of the project. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

The South Housing Village will be completed in two phases. In the first phase, the stacked flat, duplexes, some apartments and the amenities will be constructed. The second phase will include the remaining apartment buildings.

“One of the goals was to get as close to the same number of units as we could, and we managed to get, somehow, the exact number of units in order to distribute the cost pretty evenly over the two phases,” Hamilton said. “That was really the goal of the phasing. We did want to build the commons area, the community garden and the community center as part of phase one, so it’s a little bit bigger.”

The developers also wanted to build the duplexes in phase one as they will front the complex so, from the road, it will feel like the complex is there. The remaining buildings of the second phase will go behind the duplexes.

The project is being phased because DHA can’t get enough financial resources to build the project all at once, DHA Executive Director Faust previously said.

Praxis engaged a third party to estimate the construction costs. For phase one, the estimated cost is about $16.8 million and about $15.4 million for phase two.

“These costs are about one and half times what we’ve seen possible, and we are scrambling to try to make things work,” Faust said.

The overall budget for phase one, which includes the costs for the public infrastructure, the buildings, construction contingency, and professional services, among other things, is about $21.8 million. The budget includes a $1.57 million developer fee as well.

“A developer fee is the soft part of the budget where when stuff hits the fan, that’s what you give up, that profit is what you give up in order to actually make the deal work,” Faust said. “You may have to defer the entire amount. If you defer it, meaning we took that money that we would have earned and put it back into the project, we have to prove we can pay it back in 10 years, or it becomes a tax liability for the project. You can’t give up the developer fee. DCA won’t allow you to do a project with zero developer fee.”

The overall budget for phase two is about $20.1 million. The cost of the public infrastructure — including improving Ashbury Drive and extending the multiuse path on South Columbia Drive — is about $5.5 million. The city had previously agreed to fund this part of the project, but DHA is asking the city to provide $3.7 million and DHA will provide $1.8 million for the infrastructure.

The housing authority plans to fund the bulk of the development through state federal housing tax credits. The city and DHA would each commit to providing $2.42 million in funding for construction of phase one. For phase two, the city would commit to $1.32 million in funding and DHA would commit to about $905,000 to cover the construction costs.

As for next steps for the project, DHA will apply for low-income housing tax credits thought the Department of Community Affairs in May for phase one, permitting would happen in December, construction would begin in April 2023 and residents would move in, in the summer of 2024.

The low-income housing tax credit application for phase two is due in May 2023, construction would begin in April 2024 and more residents would move in, in the summer of 2025.

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