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Developer putting final touches on Oak Cottage Court in Decatur

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Developer putting final touches on Oak Cottage Court in Decatur

The Decatur City Commission, Downtown Development Authority, Decatur Land Trust, Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership and Fortas Homes visited the Oak Cottage Court developed in Decatur on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. Photo by Zoe Seiler.
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This story has been updated.

Decatur, GA — Construction is practically completed on the Oak Cottage Court project in Decatur. The developers are putting the finishing touches on the six homes and will install appliances when the homebuyers are identified.

The Decatur Downtown Development Authority has been working with the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership  (ANDP) and Fortas Homes to construct the project. The Decatur Land Trust will eventually own the land to help keep the home prices affordable.

The Decatur Land Trust and ANDP are now working to identify the homeowners. The cottages are available for city of Decatur, City Schools of Decatur, and Decatur Housing Authority employees.  ANDP and the land trust hope to have homebuyers under contract in March and have them close in April or May.

“We’re excited to be at a place where we can start identifying homebuyers and get them moved in, hopefully by the summer. It’s [been] a labor of love, and it’s great to see the finished product,” Jay Perlmutter, managing director of single-family development for ANDP, told Decaturish.

There is one one-bedroom cottage, one two-bedroom cottage, and four three-bedroom cottages with square footage ranging from 528 to 1171 square feet. The home prices range from $210,000 to $325,000.

The completion of the cottage court project has been a long time coming. The development was first announced in 2016 and was intended to be a demonstration of the market viability of smaller-footprint houses as well as a source of affordable housing for city employees.

But progress stalled due to rapidly rising construction costs and issues with the Georgia Department of Transportation’s approval of an entrance to the development, among other factors. Skyrocketing construction costs also delayed the plans at one point due to the city’s goal of keeping the homes affordable at less than $250,000.

The city commission amended the unified development ordinance in October 2021 to make it easier to develop cottage court building types. The cottage court building type was introduced as part of the unified development ordinance in 2014 to diversify the housing stock and encourage the development of small, more affordable homes, Planning and Economic Development Director Angela Threadgill previously wrote in a memo.

Up until 2021, no private developers had carried out a cottage court development, favoring townhomes. The changes related to cottage court developments in the UDO increased the types of lots that are eligible to have cottage courts on them, and allow more but slightly smaller cottages to be built.

The DDA partnered with ANDP in November 2021 to build the cottage court project. ANDP purchased the cottage court site from the city in June 2022 and construction began around August 2022. Now, in February 2024, the cottages are practically completed, with painting, cleaning, and the installation of carpet and appliances left to be done.

Oak Cottage Court is a pilot project for Decatur. City officials and ANDP are looking forward to showcasing it.

“What’s really cool and what I love about it is being able to showcase what can be done when a city is willing to not just talk the talk, but also put some effort in behind it,” Perlmutter said.

He said that adding units gradually will eventually begin to make a dent in the need for affordable housing. This is the first cottage court ANDP has worked on. Perlmutter also said that having the six homebuyers will be “hugely impactful.”

“I think the big win is going to be showcasing what a land trust can do when you can lightly subsidize land with some gentle density, and you can see this cool project that comes together that we think can be replicated in the city of Decatur and other cities in the area,” he said.

Members of the Decatur City Commission, Downtown Development Authority, Decatur Land Trust and city staff toured the Oak Cottage Court development, located at 230 Commerce Drive, on Monday, Feb. 5.

The project was a long time coming, DDA Chair Conor McNally later told Decaturish.

“We needed a nonprofit housing developer to it, and I think [ANDP] did a wonderful job,” McNally said. “I think it looks like a great success, and it is a great success at the end, but it took years and years of perseverance to get there.”

He added that the property at 230 Commerce Drive was almost an afterthought, but the DDA and the developers were able to turn it into a community. The project came together through a public-private partnership with the DDA, ANDP and Fortas Homes working to deliver the project.

“It’s a great example of what can be done when public entities work together with private entities to achieve something,” McNally said.

The city will get more apartments over time, but McNally said it’s great to have these six for-sale affordable homes. He recognized that more housing and more affordable housing is needed in the city, but is happy to see these units come online.

“I know it’s not a lot, but the fact that it’s for-sale housing and the fact that it’s an example of showing an underutilized or just not great piece of property that got put to use to create affordable using, it’s a model I’m hoping to see replicated on some other sites around town,” McNally said. “It’s only six units, but it’s a difference. We’ve got to do the hard work, we’ve got to put the subsidy dollars in, and we’ve got to keep looking and finding opportunities like this.”

Commissioner Lesa Mayer said during the city commission’s regular meeting on Monday night that her heart was swelling with joy and pride.

“It just goes to show what can happen and what can be created in such a small space,” Mayer said. “Most importantly, it is a huge step forward in affordability and in diversity of housing in Decatur because this is an opportunity for people to be able to own homes in Decatur that are two and three bedrooms that are well below what a typical sales price of a home in Decatur would be.”

Mayor Pro Tem Tony Powers added that he’s excited about the potential for teachers to be able to have a home in Decatur and walk to work.

“I just wish we had another 10 of those pockets that we could build in the community,” Powers said. “I’m really excited about what it will bring because we always talk about what we want our community to look like, and I think we’ve finally been able to say ‘this is what our community is going to look like.'”

Here’s a look at how the project started:

Design drawings depicting the potential layout and front facade of a two-bedroom cottage in the planned Decatur cottage court development. Image obtained via the city of Decatur in November 2021. 

How it went:

A look of the future courtyard space and the current cottages of the Oak Cottage Court project in Decatur on Friday, Oct. 13, 2023. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

And how it’s going:

A view of the shared courtyard and five of the cottages at Oak Cottage Court on Commerce Drive in Decatur on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

A view of the two-bedroom unit at Oak Cottage Court on Commerce Drive in Decatur on Monday, Feb. 5, 2024. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

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