The Athens-Clarke County Commission will be voting today on whether or not to spend about $40 million to redevelop the low-income Bethel Midtown Village apartment complex with the Athens Housing Authority.
As reported in the Athens Banner-Herald, private companies including Columbia Residential and Jonathan Rose Companies would also be part of the redevelopment area better known as Bethel Homes.
Built in 1975, Bethel Homes and its 190 units are on nearly 13 acres in an area bounded by Hull Street, Hoyt Street, College Avenue and Hickman Drive.
However, the redevelopment could also include a 5-acre tract of public housing on College Avenue owned by the Athens Housing Authority, the one-acre plot of the Athens Neighborhood Health Center at the corner of College Avenue and Hoyt Street, and a small part of additional property owned by the Athens-Clarke County Unified Government.
The owner of Bethel Homes is listed on Clarke County tax records as the Bethel Homes Redevelopment Partnership.
According to the proposed memorandum of understanding with the Athens Housing Authority, commissioners could vote to have $39 million of a planned $44.5 million “Affordable Housing Project” go toward the Bethel Homes redevelopment, which has been named the “North Athens Downtown Development Project.”
The project is one of more than 24 infrastructure projects that would be funded with a continuation of the county’s 1 percent Special Local Option Sales Tax, if voters approve it in a Nov. 5 referendum.
According to Athens-Clarke planners, continuing the 1 percent levy would raise about $317 million in about 10 years.
Nearly half the money would go for three big projects — the $44.5 million affordable housing fund; a $82 million “space modernization,” mostly to build a new courthouse; and $34 million to fund part of the cost of a 5,500-set arena for downtown Athens’ Classic Center. Several smaller proposals are also on the SPLOST list.
The North Athens project “would improve, replace and increase the housing for low and moderate income households in the target area,” according to a statement from Athens-Clarke County Mayor Kelly Girtz released ahead of Tuesday’s commission vote. “It is expected to include a mixture of housing types, land uses and density as part of a mixed-use/mixed income development.”
According to Girtz, the Athens Housing Authority “has committed to an extensive input process beginning this fall, to include residents of Bethel Homes and “community stakeholders and interested citizens.”
“This initiative would replace and increase the number of affordable housing units with state of the art, high quality affordable housing units, improve the quality of management of the units, and improve development opportunities for a variety of uses,” Girtz wrote. “This project would truly transform not only this site and the lives of its residents, but it also has the potential to provide reinvestment into the surrounding area, including downtown Athens.”
Bethel Homes is associated with being a high-crime area. Earlier this year, postal officials temporarily suspended mail delivery to the apartment complex after several gun incidents, including a fatal shooting.
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