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Developer moving ahead on proposed apartments

Residents of area have mixed reactions to plan

POSTED: April 9, 2014 12:21 a.m.

The Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board voted 3-2 Tuesday to recommend approving development of a 94,000-square-foot, 90-unit apartment complex on a 2.2-acre site off Queen City Parkway at Banks Street, across from the city’s Public Safety Complex.

Nonprofit Atlanta-based developer Mercy Housing Southeast is under contract to purchase the land, which consists of 11 parcels, including housing rental units, accessory buildings and a metal warehouse used as a church.

Mercy Housing is seeking to rezone the land to construct the affordable apartment community, and the Gainesville City Council will vote on the matter later this month.

Mercy Housing plans to construct 21 one-bedroom/one-bath units, 36 two-bedroom/two-bath units, and 33 three-bedroom/two-bath units. Most apartments will be rented to households at 50 percent and 60 percent of the area median income, while some will have no income restrictions.

Jason Braga, a representative from Mercy Housing, said the developer would seek state tax credits to construct the affordable housing community, to be known as the Lofts at Midtown. The project still awaits approval by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

“It’s a project that seems to be needed in this area,” Braga said.

City officials first approached Mercy Housing last year, and the site was identified after a tour of Gainesville.

“There is a need for affordable housing,” said Community Development Director Rusty Ligon, while adding the apartments should not be viewed as public housing. “I think it makes sense to redevelop here.”

Residents of the existing homes on Banks Street, which would be demolished, expressed mixed reactions about the proposed apartments.

Wendy Wendt, who lives in a small home off Banks Street with her two children and mother, said she already has plans to move. She said crime and drug use in the area is rampant, and she said she’s hoping to provide more for her family.

“I’ve just outgrown it,” Wendt said. “This is not for us.”

According to city planning officials, the police department raised concerns about the proposed apartments, including whether the property would have sufficient management, and whether plans for on-site parking could result in more accidents.

Meanwhile, Zacarias Solorzano, his wife and four young children are unsure where they would live if evicted from their home on Banks Street.

Solorzano said it would be difficult to move anytime soon because of an injury he recently suffered to his arm while doing construction work. He said he’s concerned about the cost of living if his family is forced to relocate.

While the concerns of residents weren’t addressed by the planning board, members Jane Fleming and Dexter Stanley voted against the project.

“This looks like a really attractive project,” Fleming said, before adding the location gave her concerns. “I’m not so sure, for me, this is the best choice right now.”


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