Friday, April 5, 2013

Processes, Housing, and Poetry - Oh My!

Last night was a blur. 

I spent eight hours in one of the Leadership Macon classes, then headed to a Pan African Festival meeting, then headed to Dovetail for cocktails, then went for dinner, THEN made it home to.. well.. veg out in front of the television, only to find out one of my favorite great-aunts died just a few hours earlier.


Backing up a bit, I really enjoyed the first half of LM yesterday. We took a tour with the Macon Housing Authority and got to see the progress that has been made in public housing. We toured this one neighborhood in East Macon called First Neighborhood. These (and yes, I'll say it,) beautiful units were converted from run-down, old abandoned homes. The Georgia Behavioral Health Services' (Rivers Edge Mental Health companion non-profit), First Neighborhood is the first entity in Georgia to close on a Neighborhood Stabilization Program no-interest loan. The loan proceeds were used to construct 18 new units of permanent supportive housing for individuals in recovery from mental illness and/or addiction. This facility is one of the only known projects in the country to invest NSP funds (part of the stimulus package) in permanent supportive housing! Together, they are revitalizing an abandoned and blighted neighborhood in Macon. It's basically housing people for  were previously homeless. 

After that, we drove over to the Dannenberg Lofts. This is one of downtown Macon’s largest residential projects, and is now underway with the renovation of the old Dannenberg building. This project will add 69 loft apartments to the heart of downtown Macon.  The 80,000-square-foot former department store will also have three retail spaces on the ground floor that will bring livelihood to the entire block. This project also means big news for the Urban Development Authority who will establishing a revolving loan fund for capital investment once the Community Development Block Grant funds used on the Dannenberg project are repaid.

Here are some quick snapshots of what I saw:

Next we headed over to Lynmore Estates, aka the Peach Orchard, to see what Habitat for Humanity was doing. Just so you know, the "Peach Orchard" is an older neighborhood which used to be for first time home buys back in the 40s and 50s. My mother actually grew up on Marian Ave. We actually drove down that road and I saw my Granny's old house. This neighborhood over the years ended up being over run with drugs and other crime. As we drove through, you could just see the poverty, it was terrible. But suddenly we came to one street, just one block over from where my mom grew up and saw what Habitat had done. Amazing. Apparently there is a group of residents that are getting together and trying their best to make a difference. It really made me happy to see what used to be a safe area, turned terrible, move toward improvement. My grandparents would have been happy.

Next we ended up heading to Pearl Stephens Elementary School. Which is now- Pearl Stephens Village. It has been a well-known Macon landmark for more than 75 years; generations of Macon children were educated at Pearl Stephens Elementary School until it closed its doors in the early 1990’s. The school consisted of the original mission-style building constructed in 1928. A 1940’s addition containing classrooms and a kitchen/cafeteria in the rear of the original building was recently demolished. The building suffered from long-term exposure to the elements and was in very real danger of “demolition by neglect”. In fact, by 2006 and 2007 it was impossible to walk from one end of the original school building to the other; the wooden floors had rotted away in several areas and in many cases had caved in from the rot. 

Recognizing the need to preserve a Macon landmark, Pearl Stephens Partners, L.P. acquired the property in April 2006 for $175,000. In May 2006, the Partnership applied for Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) to renovate the property and in September 2006, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) awarded state and federal LIHTC’s. The tax credits provided the means to address the deferred maintenance and issues of physical and functional obsolescence. 

The scope of the project entailed completely gutting the existing 13 classroom schoolhouse building and leaving only the outside shell/façade of the building. New trusses and a new roof were installed as well as new interior wood framing. Each of the 13 classrooms remained as close as possible to the original-sized classrooms and were transformed into 13 new one-bedroom/one bath units. The high ceilings and over-sized windows remained the original size in each of the units and the original building’s curved walls and high ceilings provided exceptional architectural detail. The crown jewel of the building is the grand entrance and original auditorium; these were left intact as much as possible and are now the focal point of the building. 

The total construction cost of this transformation was $7,129,322. The total development cost was $10,094,983. 

Here are some shots of what I saw:

Next we drove to a new set of housing projects (and I can't remember the name,) and I was BLOWN away. 

Finally, we headed to Felton Homes and ended up at the Buck Melton Community Center for lunch, case studies and a wonderful presentation about ReBuilding Macon which I think is a wonderful program. Founded in 1992, Rebuilding Macon reaches out to touch the lives of low-income elderly and disabled homeowners. The program fills a pressing need in the community. The rising cost of living and falling social service budgets have left some of our most vulnerable neighbors without the most basic of necessities, a warm, safe, and dry home. They focus on the concerns of the elderly and disabled low income homeowner. In partnership with the community, they rehabilitate the houses of low-income homeowners—free of charge, particularly the elderly and disabled, so that they may live in warmth, safety and independence.

It really was a fascinating day. 

As far as Poetry goes - tonight, and event. Yep. If you are local and reading this - we have an event called, "Poetry in Action" tonight at the Tubman Museum. It starts at 7pm and is free. 
Would love to have you guys out there.



Lots to process.

Back to work. ;-)

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