Promise Replaces Blight in Atlanta Enclave

In Edgewood, an East Side Atlanta neighborhood troubled by foreclosure, new hope has arrived with the recent opening of Retreat at Edgewood, a 100-unit affordable rental townhome development from Atlanta's Columbia Residential.

Edgewood, Ga.—In Edgewood, an East Side Atlanta neighborhood troubled by foreclosure, new hope has arrived with the recent opening of Retreat at Edgewood, a 100-unit affordable rental townhome development from Atlanta’s Columbia Residential.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) secretary Shaun Donovan and Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed celebrated the project’s unveiling with a tour of the development in late October. “The HUD secretary came because this was a project that particularly utilized the Neighborhood Stabilization Program,” Columbia president and chief operating officer Jim Grauley tells MHN.

“The Neighborhood Stabilization program was initiated by HUD to address neighborhoods heavily impacted by foreclosures and blight.”

The program helped finance construction of Retreat at Edgewood, which was among the first developments backed by federal stimulus funds in 2010. The project was awarded $2.7 million by the city of Atlanta and state of Georgia, which allocated Neighborhood Stabilization Program funds.

The property was privately purchased through the Zeist Foundation, which has been in the vanguard of revitalization efforts in Edgewood. Zeist and its partners have adopted a holistic approach to revitalization, which in turn has generated both community engagement and improvement initiatives, among them the uniting of high-quality housing, healthcare and education.

Grauley and Columbia Residential CEO Noel Khalil hailed the tour by Donovan and Reed as a recognition of the positive impacts of public-private partnerships on an entire community. “The accolades deservedly go to the Zeist Foundation, which has dedicated 17 years to the Edgewood community,” Grauley says.

The affordable housing complements the foundation’s work in health care and education, he adds. “With the assets that have been brought to this community, it’s a neighborhood on the upswing,” he says.

The Edgewood enclave, characterized by Grauley as “a very well-located, in-town neighborhood,” is situated only about a quarter mile from a MARTA rail station. “You can walk to public transportation, and walk to new retail,” he says. “The idea is to make this a sustainable, walkable neighborhood.”

Retreat at Edgewood is an in-fill development that replaces a dilapidated 175-unit apartment building, and will be built in two phases. The first phase, featuring the just-opened 100 units, commenced construction in the fourth quarter of 2010.

A second phase of 40 townhome units is scheduled to open in mid-2012, Grauley says. All townhome units are reserved for families earning below 60 percent of Area Median Income (AMI).

The project was closed in the depths of the economic downturn, which made the availability of funds from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program all the more important, Grauley says. “It’s also a pretty extraordinary collaboration of the federal government, Georgia Department of Community Affairs, Atlanta Housing Authority, private investors and lenders,” he adds.

“The Georgia Department of Community Affairs is the entity that allocates low-income housing tax credits for the state, and along with the city also allocated the NSP funds. We used several of their tools in financing this project.”

Retreat at Edgewood is built to LEED Silver Certification standards. “It’s a very well-done, high-quality development, and there is substantial interest in the units,” Grauley reports.