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Affordable Complex Owned By Coretta Scott King-Founded Group To Be Redeveloped

One of the few remaining affordable housing complexes in Atlanta's Old Fourth Ward, owned by a nonprofit founded by Coretta Scott King, is set to be demolished to make way for a new, larger affordable building.

Rendering of the four-story Henderson Place in the Old Fourth Ward filed with the City of Atlanta Office of Buildings

The Historic District Development Corp., in partnership with Mercy Housing Southeast, plans to raze the three-building, 58-unit Henderson Place apartments at 514 Irwin St. — rented mainly by single mothers — to make way for a $20M, 76-unit affordable housing project, according to a proposed special administrative permit filed with the city of Atlanta.

The finished project, consolidated into a single building, will be a mix of one-, two- and three-bedrooms reserved for renters earning no more than 60% of the area median income, which is $82,700 a year for the Old Fourth Ward, according to the permit. Units would be restricted to families earning at most $50K.

HDDC, which was founded to preserve affordable housing units in the Old Fourth Ward and Sweet Auburn neighborhoods, also plans to add a 4,300 SF “grocery store and community market that increases access to healthy food options in a food desert,” according to the application. Other features would include a laundry facility, a computer center and a community garden.

“This property represents one of the few remaining opportunities to preserve and expand affordable housing in the neighborhood,” Mercy Housing Project Developer Jaren Abedania wrote in the permit application

Abedania declined to comment when reached by phone, and didn't respond to Bisnow's written questions as of press time.

Co-founded in 1980 by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s widow, Coretta Scott King, the HDDC buys and restores housing in the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic District while preventing legacy residents from being displaced by increasing rents. Officials with HDDC didn't return a message seeking comment.

Mercy Housing is an affordable housing operator that helps finance and develop affordable units across the country, according to its website, including Thrive Sweet Auburn, a 117-unit affordable project slated to open next year not far from Henderson Place. 

HDDC bought Henderson Place in 1995, and despite a “refresh” in 2011, the complex is overdue for a major overhaul, according to HDDC's website. The buildings were erected in 1951, but their lengthy list of maintenance issues means they are in violation of numerous codes and accessibility requirements, according to HDDC, and increasing construction and maintenance costs make a complete redevelopment more efficient.

“Henderson Place has always operated on a razor-thin financial margin because of the low rents and high operational costs,” HDDC wrote on its site. “But now rising maintenance and capital costs for repairs and upkeep have forced the property into an unsustainable financial situation.”

HDDC plans to relocate current residents during the development, offering them housing assistance and moving costs. HDDC also said on its site that existing residents will be offered “the first right of return” to the new project. While Henderson Place’s rents are currently capped at 50% AMI, Mercy Housing states in the application that the ceiling will be raised to 60% in the redevelopment. 

“Homes affordable to families earning 50% AMI and below are in critically short supply in Atlanta’s city-wide housing market,” HDDC said on its site. “Most Henderson Place residents are single mothers. It is imperative to maintain affordable housing for families that would otherwise be displaced and excluded from amenities of upcoming development projects.”

The project is slated to open to residents in the summer of 2023, according to HDDC.

Henderson Place’s redo is the latest effort to increase Atlanta’s stock of affordable housing. Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens has vowed to create or preserve 20,000 affordable units in the city by 2030 and The Atlanta BeltLine, the organization developing the 22-mile pedestrian trail that rings the city, has set a goal of 5,600 affordable and workforce housing units along the path.

Atlanta City Councilman Amir Farokhi, whose district covers portions of the Old Fourth Ward, told Bisnow any supply of new housing in the area will help toward keeping rents in check. He highlighted plans for hundreds of new affordable units that will be part of the Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center redevelopment.

“There is plenty of opportunity for more housing units at any price point, which puts downward pressure on rents and prices,” Farokhi told Bisnow in a text message.